The gender wage gap in Canada dropped by 5.5 percentage points between 1998 and 2018, according to new data from Statistics Canada.
The report released Monday found women’s average hourly wage jumped 20.5 per cent over those two decades, while men’s went up by 12.9 per cent.
In dollar terms, that means the wage gap decreased by $1.04, or 13.3%, from $5.17 an hour to $4.13.
The agency was unable to account for 63.4 per cent of the remaining 2018 gender wage gap, although researchers noted that more women have gaps in their careers, largely for raising children, which could negatively impact salaries.
Statistics Canada was able to explain some of the reasons why the gender wage gap decreased over the past 20 years, including a change in what jobs men and women held. In 2018, more women worked in higher paying law, government services, business and finance jobs compared to 20 years ago. Salaries for women in law and government jobs also grew faster than they did for men.
However, men saw bigger pay gains in natural and applied sciences and more continued to work in high-paying construction jobs, compared to women.
Women’s growing education played a role in setting them up for higher salaries. In 1998, a similar proportion of men and women had bachelor’s degree. By 2018, the number of women with a university degree had gone up by 19.6 percentage points to 41.2 per cent, while the number of men with a degree went up 10.8 percentage points to 32.3 per cent.
The number of men in union jobs dropped by 8.6 percentage points over those 20 years, while woman held firm. Statistics Canada noted that unionized men tended to work in construction and manufacturing jobs, which have been increasingly non-union, while women work in healthcare and education, which remain unionized.
But not all the changes were due to women’s wages rising. Statistics Canada noted that the gender wage gap dropped sharply during the the 2008-2009 recession, as well as in the early 2000s, when men’s wages declined, rather than women’s wages rising.