1) The Recession Saved 874 Lives in 2009; 2) Would 2,000 Female Deaths Be Worth It for Pay Equity?
In June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual study "Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2009" and opened the report with the following statement:
"In 2009, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median weekly earnings of $657, or about 80 percent of the $819 median for their male counterparts."
Today the BLS released its annual report on "Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2009" with the following highlights:
1. A preliminary total of 4,340 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2009, down from a final count of 5,214 fatal work injuries in 2008. The 2009 total represents the smallest annual preliminary total since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program was first conducted in 1992.
2. Economic factors played a major role in the fatal work injury decrease in 2009. Total hours worked fell by 6 percent in 2009 following a 1 percent decline in 2008, and some industries that have historically accounted for a significant share of fatal work injuries, such as construction, experienced even larger declines in employment or hours worked.
3. Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector declined by 16 percent in 2009 following the decline of 19 percent in 2008.
4. Of the 4,340 occupational fatalities in 2009, male deaths represented 92.9% of the total (4,021) and female deaths represented 7.1% (309) of the total. Expressed as a ratio, there were more than 13 job-related deaths for men in 2009 for woman who died in a job-related accident.
1. The economic slowdown in 2009, especially in the construction and manufacturing sectors, was largely responsible for reducing occupational deaths in 2009 by almost 900 American workers (874).
2. Given the huge disparity in occupational deaths by gender (13 men died on the job in 2009 for every 1 women), it should be clear that men and women in the labor force cannot accurately be described as "counterparts" (definition: "One that has the same functions and characteristics as another.")
The huge male-female occupational death gap, which has persisted over many decades, has surprisingly received very little attention as one important factor that could explain some of the 80% female-male pay gap. To achieve greater female-male pay equity there would most likely have to be an increase in the number of women in higher-paying, but higher-risk occupations. That outcome will certainly reduce the gender pay gap, but it would come at a cost—significantly more fatal occupational deaths and injuries for women.
Would closing the gender pay gap, if it also means closing the gender occupational death gap, really be worth it for women? To put it in perspective, perfect gender parity for occupational deaths in 2009 would have translated into more than 2,000 women dying on the job, instead of the actual number of women who died: 309. Would the higher risk of being injured or killed on the job really be worth the extra, high-risk pay for women? Do they really want to achieve "counterpart" status with men in occupational deaths? Probably not, but that's one of the reasons for the unadjusted, but persistent pay gap - the disproportionate number of men in higher-risk, higher-paying jobs (construction, farming, fishing, manufacturing, etc.)