Opinion

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Ouch!

 

The dollars and sense of being a woman

We talk a lot these days about the gender gap when it comes to equal pay for equal work, and the how the disparity in earnings between men and women has a long-term effect on women’s lives and their retirement income.

The latest research shows that women with disabilities earn less than their male counterparts; that women on their own are the poorest of the poor, especially women raising children in lone-parent families; and that Canadian women overall earn, on average, 87 cents for every dollar earned by men. Canada has now tumbled down to 35th place in the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap rankings. Putting this into perspective, the gender wage gap of 31.5 per cent in Ontario means a woman would have to work 14 additional years to earn the same pay as a man has earned at the age of 65 years, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. That hurts!

The cost of the grey tsunami
There are now officially more seniors than children in Canada, and the gender pay gap does not seem to get better with age. Singles and seniors, mostly women, have lower incomes than men, and many are being called upon to act as caregivers for older family members who are no longer self-sufficient. It is unsurprising, then, that women tend to enter retirement with a smaller income than their male counterparts.

Who cares?
Let us look at the facts: 30 per cent of Canadians with parents over 65 need to take time off work to help them. The majority of those “opting out” to care for loved ones, including their in-laws, are women. Some are women who are forced to leave their career at the doorstep, miss out on promotions or take early retirement. Others are single mothers who are just scraping by, with little time or money to spare. Regardless of the circumstances, women who are caregivers spend an average of 450 hours a year providing care—either while they are working or instead of working, according to a CIBC poll.

Experts have suggested the “loss of working hours” for women caused by caregiving has a price tag of $221 million each year. In case you are wondering, the amount for male caregivers is less than half of that. Another way to measure women’s lost earning power is to look at the fact that female caregivers spend on average of 10 hours a week performing caregiving duties, and they do so for almost six years. Plus their out-of-pocket expenses while they are on the job add up to around $3,300 each year.

Expect more from men
The next time you hear about pay equity, think also of the financial impact of caregiving on your sisters from coast to coast. As health professionals, your guidance and advice in care conferences and family meetings makes a difference, case by case.

Remember: When a husband, partner, brother, nephew or son steps up to help with caregiving, the chances are it will lead to a better financial future for the women in their lives. Equality in caregiving. It is time!

Caroline Tapp-McDougall , Publisher
caroline@bcsgroup.com

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