A new tool created by Ottawa to reveal potential barriers in the workplace shows a significant gap in wages for Indigenous workers.
On Friday, Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan launched a tool called Equi’Vision That reveals that the average hourly wage of Indigenous workers is approximately nine per cent less than the hourly wage of non-Indigenous workers across Canada. Experts say the gap is evidence of systemic inequalities.
“I think anyone in their right mind would agree that there should be no pay gap,” said Rodney Nelson, a researcher in indigenous governance and economic development at Carleton University. “I wish I had the magic solution and knew why, but I think it’s a combination of a lot of different things.”
Each year, federally regulated private sector companies with 100 or more employees must report equity data, such as information on pay gaps and worker diversity, to the federal government. The data tracks employment equity for four groups: women, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and visible minority workers. Ottawa’s new website, Equi’Vision, compiles this data in graphs.
Equi’Vision’s most recent findings, collected in 2021, show that nationally, Indigenous workers experience the second-largest pay gap of any group after women, who see a gap of around 10 per cent. In Ontario, Indigenous workers experience the largest hourly wage gap of any group, with a median hourly wage about 10 per cent less than non-Indigenous workers.
The average hourly wage gap between Indigenous workers and their non-Indigenous counterparts is not consistent across the country. In British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, Indigenous workers receive an average wage of about 5 percent less per hour. The gap reaches 5.6 per cent in Manitoba and 8.4 per cent in the Yukon.
The gap is largest in the Northwest Territories, at 11.6 per cent, and reaches 11.3 per cent in Saskatchewan. In all the Maritime provinces, it is almost zero, and in Nunavut, Indigenous workers earn 12.8 per cent more per hour compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.
Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labor Congress, said data shows that not everyone in Canada has the same opportunities to earn a fair wage.
“It’s a bleak outlook and, frankly, we have to do better,” he said. “[The data] Hopefully it will act as an incentive for employers to take this seriously and find new strategies to encourage better employment of some of the groups that are underrepresented.”
Ottawa’s new website, Equi’Vision, shows that the average hourly wage for #Indigenous workers is about nine per cent less than that of non-Indigenous #workers.
Colonial policies that limited access to land, capital and resources have created systemic barriers for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in the workplace. Nelson said other factors could increase the pay gap, including anti-Indigenous bias in the workplace and access to high-paying jobs. He said workers on reservations may not have the same resources as workers off reservations.
“Almost every community has a gas station and a grocery store. Yeah [an Indigenous worker] If you are working there, would your salaries be lower than if you were working in downtown Toronto? Possibly yes,” she stated. “(Some reservations) simply don’t have the funding or ability to pay higher wages to workers.”
He added that some indigenous people face challenges when obtaining university degrees. Nelson, who previously chaired Carleton University’s council to support Indigenous students, said expensive tuition remains a barrier to higher salaries.
“There are still students who did not have funding to come [to Carleton] and the funding envelope hasn’t really increased,” Nelson said. “Some communities are struggling. They have to choose people to go and tell others, ‘Sorry, I can’t send you this year.’ Maybe next year.'”
Students from remote nations and communities face additional challenges, including lack of funding and the need to travel for secondary and post-secondary education.
Bruske said Equi’Vision could be a tool for employers, unions and governments to track their progress on employment equity. While he said there is no simple solution to achieving pay equity, Indigenous members of the Canadian Labor Congress want employers and governments to address anti-Indigenous discrimination in the workplace, reduce barriers to education and create more employment infrastructure. transportation between indigenous communities and workplaces. .
“These are all issues we need to address if we want better outcomes,” he said. “It’s not just a quick fix. “There are many aspects that need to be included in this puzzle to really solve these problems.”
Nelson said to address the pay discrepancy for Indigenous workers, steps must be taken to reduce pay gaps for all workers, including gender diverse people, people with disabilities and people from visible minority groups. Intersectional workers, who fit into several of these groups, face greater challenges in achieving pay equality.
“Reconciliation and equity, diversity and inclusion need to be rooted,” he said. “We can stop focusing on it when it is no longer a problem, and it is still a major problem. Both [Indigenous] “Communities and businesses don’t know how to do it, so it’s a journey we all have to take together.”
Isaac Phan Nay / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative