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The Fruits of Her Labour

Canadian women are reaping the rewards of their labour-market gains

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), #EachforEqual, calls on each of us to do our part to create a more gender-equal world. Canada can point to a dramatic increase in women’s participation in the labour market over the past four decades as creating the conditions in which economic equality is finally in sight. Women are a force in the labour market like never before, giving them a new financial independence that’s serving them well during their earning years and into retirement. A recent RBC/IPSOS survey said 70% of women over the age of 45 are looking forward to a comfortable retirement.

In our previous IWD reports, we focused on the gaps that women face, in terms of pay or because they take a hit to earnings when they have a baby. While these gaps persist, this year we’ve chosen to highlight the financial gains Canadian women have made.

They include:

  • Women earn 42% of total Canadian household income, up from 25% in 1976
  • Those income gains mean Canadian women collectively control $240 billion more each year than if their income share hadn’t increased
  • Growth in women’s retirement savings prevented more than 1 million senior women from falling into poverty
  • Working-age women boast a collective net worth of $3.4 trillion, 46% of the Canadian total

Women’s economic clout helps drive the consumer economy; they make the majority of household purchases, including food, necessities and healthcare. More surprisingly, single working women now boast larger private pension assets than their male counterparts, reflecting their strong presence in sectors where defined-benefit pensions are more prevalent. Women are also a growing force in the housing market and in charitable giving.

 -RBC Economics 


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This report was authored by Vice President & Deputy Chief Economist, Dawn Desjardins, Senior Economist, Andrew Agopsowicz, and Economist, Carrie Freestone.