Women in Canada: Economic well-being

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Between 2000 and 2008, average total income for Canadian women increased at almost twice the pace as it did for men, although women continued to have lower income levels.

On average, total income for women was $30,100 in 2008, up 13% from $26,300 in 2000. During the same period, total income for men increased by 7% to $47,000.

Women also had lower average annual earnings from paid work than men. In 2008, they earned $30,200, or about 65% of the roughly $46,900 that men earned. One reason for the gap is that women are less likely than their male counterparts to work full time.

This gap in earnings was narrower among women who work on a full-time, full-year basis. In 2008, women employed on a full-time full-year basis earned about 71 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts. Since 1999, the female to male earnings ratio has fluctuated between 70% and 72%.

Part of the difference in earnings for women and men is related to hours worked: even among full-time workers, women work fewer hours than their male counterparts.

This analysis is based on the second section in what will be the latest edition of the publication Women in Canada, published periodically by Statistics Canada.

Average annual earnings for both women and men rose with their level of education. However, the education premium was greater among women.

In 2008, women with less than a Grade 9 education earned $20,800 on average, compared with earnings of $62,800 for women with a university degree. In contrast, men who had less than Grade 9 education earned $40,400, compared with $91,800 for those with a university degree.

While the earnings gap narrowed for those with higher levels of education, women working full year full time with a university degree earned about 30% less than men with a university degree.

The incidence of dual-income families has increased over time. In 1976, 47% of husband-wife families (including common-law) were dual-income; by 2008, 64% of husband-wife families were dual-earner.

As the education and income levels of women have increased, the incidence of dual-earner families in which the wife earned more than the husband has also grown. In 1976, about 12% of wives in dual-earner families earned more than their husbands; by 2008, this share had more than doubled to 29%.

Average total income was lower in families in which the wife earned more than the husband. For example, the average total income for a family in which the wife earned more was $101,000; in dual-earner families in which the husband earned more it was $116,400.

The incidence of low income has fallen for both women and men over the last three decades. In 1976, almost 15% of women and 11% of men lived in low-income situations. By 2008, these proportions had declined to 10% for women and 9% for men.

The largest declines during this period occurred among seniors aged 65 and older. While both male and female seniors experienced declines in low-income rates, the decline was much more pronounced for women. For example, in 1976, 34% of women 65 and older were classified as living in low income. By 2008, this had decreased to just under 8%. For men 65 and older, the incidence fell from 23% to 4%.

In 2009, lone-parent mothers had a median value of assets at $60,000 compared with $200,000 for lone-parent fathers. Median debt values were $14,000 for lone mothers, compared with $55,000 for lone-parent families headed by men.

The net worth for a family is the value of their assets minus their debts. In 2009, lone-parent families headed by a female had the lowest median net worth of any family type in Canada at $17,000. In comparison, lone-parent fathers had a median net worth of $80,000.

Note: Data for this analysis came from the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics. Information about the assets, debts and net worth of women are from the 2009 Canadian Survey of Financial Capability.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers, including related surveys, 3889 and 5159.

The chapter "Economic well-being" is now available in Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, 2010/2011, sixth edition (89-503-X, free), from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (613-951-5979; sasd-dssea@statcan.gc.ca), Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.