The #MeToo movement and the virtue-signalling of the Trudeau and Wynne governments have at least one goal in common: the elimination of Canada’s gender pay gap. Wynne in particular has passed various pieces of legislation purportedly designed to eliminate it.
Is Canada’s gender pay gap in 2018 still a product of discrimination? If not, should it be redressed, and even eliminated?
Put another way, if the gap is caused by market forces, not discrimination, would legislation seeking to eliminate it actually be harmful?
A January 2018 Stanford University study on gender and the gig economy, analyzing close to two million Uber drivers, who were selected for rides based on algorithms unrelated to gender, still found a seven per cent gender wage gap. Half of that related to male drivers working longer hours. The other half (and who will be surprised by this?) related to the fact that males, on average, were driving faster, thereby getting to their destinations quicker and being available to pick up their next customer.
Another study issued the same month from the National Bureau of Economic Research, based on Danish data, found that almost all of the difference in wages between Danish men and women were the result of women having children. Despite 52-week paid leaves and government-subsidized daycare, the study found that the arrival of children resulted in a long-term wage gap of 20 per cent. Over the 23 years of this study, other sources of the wage gap in Denmark had been almost eliminated but the “child penalty” stubbornly persisted. As in Denmark, North American studies have found there to be effectively no wage gap between men and women who have not had children. So is the gender wage gap actually based on gender?
I recall one female lawyer, now managing partner of another labour law firm, confiding in me that she did not expect to earn as much as her male peers because, at that time in her life, she prioritized time with her children and was not willing to work the same hours as her male peers. She believed that paying her as much as them would have been unfair.
Should government have forced her employer to pay her as much as it did her male colleagues working longer hours? If it did, would those male lawyers have continued to work as hard? Of greater significance, if government forced employers to pay women who choose to work 9 to 5 in order to spend time with their children the same as lawyers who spend most dinners and weekend lunches at their desks, how likely would employers be to hire women of childbearing age or with young children?
As American Enterprise Institute’s Kay Hymowitz poignantly noted, after reviewing the Uber and Danish studies: “Feminists have long promised that stronger social policies would bring about gender equality. On the evidence of (this) Danish study and similar ones, they do not. The average woman cuts back when her kids are born, regardless of whether the government offers long-term paid leave or heavily subsidized childcare. Taken together, the Uber and Danish studies provide more insight into the reality of male and female wage differences, differences that the practitioners of outrage theatre — from the U.K.’s gender gap reporting legislation to America’s Equal Pay Day — do their best to evade.”
Howard Levitt is senior partner of Levitt LLP, employment and labour lawyers. He practises employment law in eight provinces. The most recent of his six books is War Stories from the Workplace: Columns by Howard Levitt.
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