Canada's federal finance minister said Wednesday the country must do better in closing the gender gap in pay and workforce participation for the health of the economy, but acknowledged getting to parity will be difficult.
"I certainly do not accept the argument that [Canada] should be 15th out of 29 OECD in terms of pay gap between men and women. We absolutely can do better," Bill Morneau said speaking to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on the recently released federal budget.
Morneau said the numbers are startling as women still earn 88 cents for every dollar earned by men on an hourly basis.
Women's participation rate in the labour force also still lags at 61 per cent to men's 70 per cent, but a closing of that gap would help boost the economy, said Morneau.
"Getting to the same may be a challenge, but even if we were able to close half that gap, getting two per cent more added to our economy...means that we could have a material and significant impact on growth."
The 2018 budget puts a large emphasis on gender equality, including through pay equity legislation for federally regulated sectors.
However, Morneau, who also announced the introduction of up to five weeks of parental leave for fathers or non-birth parents to encourage greater sharing of child-rearing responsibilities, did not address a question on the limits of legislation and what the government can do to address societal barriers that could contribute the gender pay gap.
The government has yet to announce further specifics on either policy.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Tuesday pay transparency legislation that would require all publicly advertised job postings to include a salary rate or range, bar employers from asking about past compensation and prohibit reprisal against employees who do discuss or disclose compensation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made gender issues a central focus of the Liberal platform, as well as a major theme of its G7 presidency.
Speaking in Toronto Wednesday, Trudeau said the emphasis on gender is key to economic growth.
"Everyone's wondering with an aging demographic, with challenges around global growth, where are those next bits of growth coming from? Well, part of it comes from going from 88 cents an hour on a man's dollar in hourly wage ... to a better level," he said.
"It's a fundamentally smart thing to do. Much of Canada's growth over the past few decades came from the entry into the workplace of extraordinarily successful women."