By Jesse Robichaud

The provincial government held a conference here yesterday to provide New Brunswick businesses with the tools to close the wage gap, but the effects of evaluating and comparing the value of jobs on average wages remains unclear at best, and a “nightmare” at worst, according to a leading business analyst.

The wage gap is the difference between the average wages earned by men and the average wages earned by women, and is based on the value of jobs of equal value – not simply the same jobs.

The provincial government has undertaken sweeping evaluations of public sector jobs in order to reduce its wage gap and offer the private sector a model to follow, and introduced a kit to help business people do the same, yesterday.

Charles Cirtwill, acting president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, calls the effects of the complex process of comparing the value of jobs, a possible “nightmare.”

The efficiency of the initiative depends on what jobs are being used as a barometer, says Cirtwill.

“This is a wonderful exercise if you are comfortable that the job you are comparing everything against is being properly compensated,” he said.

“If they are being over compensated this is going to undermine the entire objective, and if they are being under compensated.

“And if the barometer job is not being paid the appropriate wage, then everybody is going to get less than they should, so it is just fraught with all sorts of difficulties.” Cirtwill called the initiative a possible recipe for driving up costs without necessarily assigning the proper value to a particular job.

“Almost invariably the common denominator is the highest salary,” Cirtwill said.

But the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Carmelle Robichaud, said she is confident that employers who follow the government’s lead will benefit from the tools they are being provided, notably as the province faces a labour shortage.

“If we have the women here, which is 52 per cent of the population in New Brunswick, we have the force, we have the labour force, it means that we have to train, it means that we have to make sure that they have an equal pay for the job they’re doing,” she said.

Robichaud noted that men employed in traditionally male professions have benefited from evaluations made by the provincial government.

“Men who are doing custodian (work), for example, their jobs were evaluated and they had an increase. So it goes both ways,” she said, adding that government will begin the evaluation of daycare workers next month.

In 2000, the gap separating the average salaries of New Brunswick men and women was 21 per cent, but that gap slimmed to just over 15 per cent by 2005, when the Lord government launched the plan entitled Facing the Economic Imperative.

However, since then the gap has lessened only slightly to 14.3 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

Nevertheless, Robichaud has stated that the government is indeed on track to remove the wage gap in the public sector by 2010. She also said the wage gap in the province’s private sector is on pace to lower its wage gap to 10 per cent by 2010.