Women’s wages aren’t keeping up with inflation: new labour market analysis

Report shows bumpy pandemic recovery has been as unequal as the initial downturn
May 31, 2022

OTTAWA—Women’s wages are not keeping pace with surging inflation overall, according to one key finding from a new report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). 

In February 2022 the annual change in inflation was 5.7 per cent, while women’s wages grew on average by only 2.2 per cent. And essential occupations like nurses, child care workers, and social and community service workers all experienced real income losses after inflation is factored in.

“Although some women have recovered from pandemic labour market disruptions, the recovery so far has been bumpy and uneven—particularly for low-wage and essential workers who are still on an economic roller coaster,” said report author and CCPA Senior Researcher Katherine Scott.

Scott’s latest report, A Bumpy Ride: Tracking women’s economic recovery amid the pandemic, is part of a new multi-year project tracking women who are bouncing back, and those being left behind, as a result of COVID-19 disruptions. 

“Women represented the majority of workers hardest hit by successive rounds of economic restrictions over the past two years, but the shifts we’re observing in the labour market are unique and impact different women in different ways,” adds Scott. 

Among the study’s findings about who is having the bumpiest ride to recovery:

  • By the end of 2021, employment levels among all women aged 15 and older had finally surpassed pre-pandemic levels, but low-wage women had yet to recover and a large number of older female workers left the labour market altogether.

  • Women accounted for 60 per cent of job losses in vulnerable sectors between December 2019 and December 2021, including 57 per cent of losses in food and accommodation and 95 per cent of losses in personal services. Levels of employment are still down by 11 per cent in these sectors compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

  • Some groups of women are sharing in current employment opportunities and wage gains in several high- and mid-paying industries (e.g., technology, real estate, professional services). 

  • But wage growth has been more modest in female-majority areas of the economy such as the care economy—despite the rapid growth in vacancies in all these areas.

  • Between the fourth quarter of 2019 and 2021, wages increased by 3.5 per cent among nurses, 4.8 per cent among childcare workers, and 1.7 per cent among social and community service workers. Taking inflation into account (5.5 per cent over the two years), all these workers experienced real income losses. 

“Without focusing recovery efforts on the needs of those experiencing the greatest barriers, progress towards gender equality will be rolled back,” adds Scott. “It’s not too late to use smart public policy to prevent a prolonged and unequal recovery from taking hold and setting back the most marginalized, who have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s impacts.”

The new report is part of a larger two-year project, Beyond Recovery, which is working to support and advance a gender-just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by setting benchmarks for tracking the recovery and highlighting the experiences of marginalized workers. The project has been funded in part by Women and Gender Equality Canada.

A Bumpy Ride: Tracking women’s economic recovery amid the pandemic is available for download on the CCPA’s website. 


For interviews contact: Alyssa O’Dell, CCPA media and public relations officer, at 343-998-7575 or [email protected].

The CCPA is an independent, non-profit charitable research institute founded in 1980.