Wage Gap

by Dennis Bradford

in financial well-being

Is the wage gap between the pay for working men and women still real?

According to a new report on gender equality and development, which is available at no cost from the World Bank [click here to read it], there is good news and bad news.

The good news? “Over the last three decades, there has been a marked improvement in gender equality in human endowments across the world — both in the absolute status of women and in their status relative to men — and in some instances, the gender gap has reversed, with women now surpassing men.”

In terms of the wage gap, women’s lives have improved significantly in the last two decades.

However, even the good news is not wholly good: “Income growth and new technologies may also have unanticipated adverse effects on gender equality.”

The bad news? “Progress has not been even across or within countries. . . Gender disparities in access to physical capital and assets remain large and significant.”

In particular, the wage gap stubbornly persists. “[I]mportant differences still exist in terms of the distribution of men and women across industries and occupations.” Sex differentiated patterns of work contribute to a persistent wage gap between the sexes.

Worldwide, women are not only concentrated doing “women’s” work, but their wages are still 10 to 30% less than men’s.

Women tend to cluster doing work in communication, retail, and public administration (such as health and education).

Why hasn’t greater progress been made?

An obvious reason is discrimination. Some men think that women are less capable, and some of those men are employers. Furthermore, there are still laws that treat women differently than they treat men.

Another reason is that women have less freedom of movement and circulation than men.

Another reason is that women tend to have fewer assets that can be turned into capital.

Another reason is that women are, in fact, sometimes less qualified than men — especially where advances in female education are not widespread. Among older workers, men have often spent more time studying and have more seniority, which gives them an advantage with respect to promotions.

Another important reason is that women have less leisure time than men. Women not only spend more time working in the home than men, but they are more likely to do part-time or informal work than men.

Furthermore, some of the low hanging fruit has already been picked. Where there is just one barrier to rectifying the wage gap, it has often been removed with positive results.

Unfortunately, where there are multiple barriers, progress has been very slow.

In many countries there has not yet been theoretical progress. For example, women still often have fewer political rights than men. It is notoriously true that in some countries it is still illegal for women to drive automobiles!

Even where there has been theoretical progress, there often still remains a gap between theory and practice. Even in places where women have been given equal rights in theory, that does not mean that there has been equivalent progress in removing practical barriers.

If the facts cited in this report are correct, and I have no reason to think that they are not, it would be foolish to believe that there is no remaining difficulty about closing the wage gap between men and women.

The wage gap problem remains.

Since, like cancer, it has a number of causes, it seems unlikely that there will be a single solution.

Permit me, though, to single out the foundation for a solution.

There is no moral inequality between males and females. Whether male or female, we are all human beings.

Male and female bodies are, of course, different. Male and female brains are different. Such physical differences pale in comparison to the importance of our shared humanity. Female work is not inherently less valuable than male work.

It’s possible and desirable to appreciate our differences while emphasizing our shared essence, which is Being itself [click here for the distinction between Becoming and Being]. It is the neglect of this fact that is a fundamental precondition for the arising of such practical problems as the wage gap problem.

I’m skeptical that superficial fixes will cure it.

I’m hopeful that a rising consciousness of Being will.

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