Queen's University IRC

Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value


Marilee Marcotte

March 1, 1987

Research on the male-female wage differential in Canada has produced evidence of a substantial link between occupational segregation and low female earnings. Because most Canadian labour jurisdictions have enacted equal pay for equal work legislation, this component of the wage gap is unaffected. Consequently, programs which attempt to desegregate occupations and/or resolve pay inequities arising from occupational segregation are being debated.

A possible alternative, equal pay for work of equal value, is the subject matter of this paper. The purpose of the essay is to evaluate the principle and experience of equal pay for work of equal value at the Canadian federal level, to discover whether broader application is warranted.

Essential background information on the issue includes a review of relevant statistical and empirical data, the evolution of the concept in Canada and how the legislation is interpreted and applied by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Following this, an analysis of case results at the federal level is conducted. While an appraisal of the legislation must contain an examination of its direct impact, possible indirect effects should also be taken into consideration. As a result, various other factors enter into the evaluation.

In this paper, the following conclusions are offered: (1) evidence of implementation and enforcement problems have been observed at the federal level – they do not only exist in theory; (2) case results indicate that equal pay for work of equal value does not appear to be an effective method of reducing the male-female wage differential. However, when other factors are considered (i.e., educational tool, strengthen unions position on issue during bargaining, etc.) the legislation may be helpful to those trying to achieve improvement in this area; (3) due to potential adverse employment effects of equal value legislation, other public policies are realized (i.e., equal opportunity, affirmative action, etc.).

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