Thank you, Madam Chair.
I understand that today marks a significant milestone. It's the first time that a finance minister has appeared before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and, obviously, we think that's long overdue because we recognize the important work done by this committee. We know that it makes a real difference in the lives of Canada's women and girls, so I'd like to begin by thanking all committee members for inviting me here to talk about our budget and to answer any questions you might have.
As I said, when I introduced our budget in the House back at the end of February, our economy is doing quite well. Over the last two years, hard-working Canadians have created more than 600,000 new jobs, most of them full-time. Unemployment rates are among the lowest we've seen in more than 40 years. If you compare Canada to its economic peers and other G7 nations, we've been leading the pack when it comes to economic growth since 2016.
We find ourselves in an interesting position. Our strong economic fundamentals give us the opportunity to invest in the things that will keep our economy strong and growing. At the same time, we've an obligation to take a serious look at some of the deeper challenges that continue to hold back our people and our economy. That's where this year's budget comes in.
Unfortunately, obstacles will continue to prevent many women and girls from achieving their full potential in Canada and elsewhere in the world. Our government is determined to eliminate those obstacles. Budget 2018 provides support to women and girls, reduces the gender wage gap and will increase the participation of women in the labour force.
The participation of women in the workforce in Canada is the highest among G7 countries, but it's still almost 10 percentage points below the rate for Canadian men, even though Canadian women are among the best educated in the world. The gender wage gap is also an issue in Canada, as it is in many other places. In 2017, for every dollar a male worker in Canada earned, a female worker earned $0.80 per hour worked. Because women tend to work fewer hours, the gap in annual earnings is even larger, with female workers earning only $0.69 for every dollar earned by a male worker.
Canadian women are also underrepresented in positions of leadership, and in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We also know that the demands of unpaid work, caring for children, or for ill or elderly family members disproportionately fall to women, making it difficult for them to pursue opportunities, including work.
These are some of the important challenges we face. Though we know we can't solve every problem—after all, these challenges are the result of long-standing and systemic discrimination—budget 2018 does take some important steps toward providing greater equality for Canada's women and girls. From a structural perspective, it starts with the introduction of a new gender results framework. This whole-of-government tool helps define what needs to be done to achieve gender equality, and tracks our progress against stated goals.
As you know, budget 2018 also marks the first time that no budget decision was taken without being informed by gender-based analysis plus, or GBA+. To ensure that gender remains a key consideration for future governments, we'll also introduce new GBA+ legislation to make gender budgeting a permanent part of the federal budget-making process.
In terms of specific measures in budget 2018, I'd like to highlight just a few for you today.
In Budget 2018, the government proposes to legislate on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value in federally regulated sectors. This will mean that on average, women and men who work in federally regulated industries will receive the same salary for work of equal value. The regime will apply to approximately 1,200,000 wage earners.
As I said earlier, we know that child care duties and caregiving duties in general disproportionately fall to women, and so in budget 2018 we introduced a new “use it or lose it” employment insurance parental-sharing benefit to encourage both parents in two-parent families to share equally in the work of raising their children. With this new benefit, two-parent families who agree to share parental leave could receive an additional five weeks of leave, or an additional eight weeks for parents who choose the extended parental benefits option.
This will make it easier for women to return to work sooner, if they so choose, and it will also help to address some of the patterns of discrimination that many women experience in the hiring process. At the same time, it will give both parents an opportunity to spend time with young children, setting up patterns of more equal parenting that can last a lifetime.
To help Canada's women-led businesses grow, find new customers, and hire more Canadians, budget 2018 proposes to invest $1.65 billion in a new women entrepreneurship strategy. It also supports the advancement of women in their careers by publicly recognizing corporations that are committed to promoting women to senior management positions.
To make sure we're able to do this important work, budget 2018 also proposes to make additional investments in Status of Women, and finally, to make Status of Women a full department in the Government of Canada.
The budget broadens Canada's strategy to prevent and fight gender-based violence, and increases support to crisis centres for the victims of sexual assaults on university and college campuses. It contains measures aimed at mobilizing men and boys to promote gender equality.
The government is also acting to promote gender equality throughout the world. Budget 2018 will ensure that Canada welcomes more female refugees who are not only fleeing wars and persecution, but who also face greater risks because of their gender. Ensuring that all Canadians have a fair and equitable opportunity to succeed is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing.
We know that greater diversity in the workforce boosts the productivity and profitability of Canadian businesses, and, of course, the experts back us on this. RBC Economics estimates that if Canada had completely equal representation of women and men in our workforce, we could have increased the size of the economy by 4% last year. Similarly, MacKenzie Global Institute estimates that by taking steps to advance greater equality for women, such as employing more women in technology and boosting women's participation in the workforce, Canada could add $150 billion to its economy by 2026.
That's the kind of long-term growth that would benefit not just women and girls but all Canadians. It would mean more good, well-paying jobs, more money for all those Canadians who are working hard to pay their bills.
Madam Chair, as Minister of Finance, I sit around a diverse cabinet table with as many women as men, and I can tell you that the diversity of voices and perspectives around that table makes for better government, better decisions, and better outcomes. Likewise, gender equality in our economy and our society will lead to greater prosperity. It will benefit all Canadians.
Budget 2018 represents an important step toward that goal.
I'd be happy to take your questions now.