Thursday, April 8, 2010
Wage gap is narrowing for Aboriginals
OTTAWA -- For every dollar earned by a non-aboriginal in Canada in 2006, aboriginal Canadians earned just 70 cents, a new study will show today.
The Income Gap Between Aboriginal Peoples and the Rest of Canada is being released publicly this morning by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The analysis of income data from the 1996, 2001 and 2006 censuses found the median income for aboriginal Canadians jumped 58 per cent between 1996 and 2006 to $18,962.
That was $8,135 less than the median income of non-aboriginals. In 1996, the income gap was $9,428.
Study co-author Daniel Wilson said the gap is slowly narrowing. "It's large and it's pretty stubborn."
Wilson noted at this rate it will be 2069 before aboriginal workers have the same median income as non-aboriginals.
If Canada doesn't do something to address the problem, federal and provincial governments will lose an estimated $115 billion in foregone income tax revenue and social spending costs in the next two decades, the study estimates.
There is some good news in the study, particularly for aboriginal women, who are earning more than non-aboriginals if they have finished university. Aboriginal women who had a bachelor's degree in 2006 had a median income $2,471 higher than non-aboriginal women with undergraduate degrees. Among aboriginal women with a master's degree, the median income was $4,521 higher.
"At the end of the day, one takes the glimmers of hope where you can," Wilson said.
The reason might be because aboriginal women after university tend to gravitate towards public service careers in education, health care and social work. Wilson said aboriginal women tend to be older on average when they finish university, and can use life experience and maturity to help them land higher paying jobs off the bat.
Rainey Gaywish, area director of aboriginal focus programs at the University of Manitoba's Extended Education program, said she thinks there is something else driving the trend: supply and demand.
"Aboriginal people with degrees are sought after," she said. "It's called competition for scarce resources."
Gaywish, whose master's degree and PhD puts her among the one per cent of aboriginal women with post-graduate degrees, said employers are looking to diversify their workforce, making aboriginal degree holders highly sought after.
Gaywish said she definitely sees more female students coming through her doors. She attributes it to historical and cultural factors, including the higher number of single mothers who need to earn more to support their children. She also noted many of the jobs available on reserves go to men. Women have to go to school to earn their way in, she said.
Gaywish said her decision to attend university had more to do with becoming a role model than bettering her career.
"I'm well aware of the statistics of how few of us are achieving an education," she said. "The more of us that do so, the more it will encourage young people to do so."
Median incomes, 2006:
Median incomes, 2001:
Median incomes, 1996:
-- Source: The Income Gap Between Aboriginal Peoples and the Rest of Canada, April 2010
It is encouraging to see that the wage-gap is narrowing and that Aboriginals are becoming a tad closer to equal, with everyone else. Unfortunately, they still face many barriers to achieving an education, the main one being systemic discrimination. This is what we need to change.