A recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) argues that pay gaps for vulnerable worker populations, including those with disabilities, are a result of prejudice and discrimination. What is needed, the paper states, is a living wage – one that is sufficient to provide the basics of life.
Pay based on discrimination is a violation of many international and national conventions, yet it still occurs. Women and visible minorities make less than their male counterparts, and persons with disabilities make far less than any other population, thus relegating them to low-wage ghettos. This pay inequity is also manifested in unequal opportunities to gain employment and unequal working conditions once people are employed.
The report calls for government and employers to take concrete action and offers five ways for the labour market to take a human rights approach in closing the gap for low-wage workers. The report states that governments need to start by creating federal and provincial plans to close pay gaps and integrate them into poverty reduction strategies; this will take a mix of policy interventions. Minimum wage should be indexed to the cost of living (which will help reduce working poverty). Governments should also change their procurement policies to ensure any contractors they use have a living wage policy. Union workers tend to earn more than non-unionized workers, so the government is urged to increase access to collective bargaining. Finally, there are many groups that call for living wages; their advocacy actions should continue to promote closure of the pay gap for vulnerable worker populations.