Sunday, September 09, 2007

More on the Pay Gap, From the U.K.

Like in the U.S., the pay gap is a controversial issue in the U.K. English Blogger Tim Worstall has a link to an interesting article in the U.K.'s Sunday Times that reports that Britain's Minister for Women Harriet Harman is "pressing forward with the government’s commitment to reduce the pay gap between men and women,” currently 12.2%, up from 11.8% last year. From the article:

However, what is not recognised in this age-old debate is the fact that many women are happy to be paid less in order to work less and thus spend more time with their families.

Well, not “happy” necessarily, but “able to live with what is an essential compromise”. That sounds like an incredibly old-fashioned, borderline sexist thing to say, but it is in fact an entirely modern and realistic one.

The truth of the matter is that recent generations have produced an awful lot of women who crash through the glass ceiling only to stand triumphantly among the broken shards and think: “Hmm, you know what? I’d rather be home for the baby’s bathtime.”

Men are, with a handful of exceptions, unwilling to compromise an iota on the work/ family front: work comes first and will always come first.

Faced with the choice of their children having two spectacularly absent parents, most women compromise and cut their hours. Or work from home a day or two a week, or leave at 5.30 on the dot, no matter how much they’re needed at work.

Their salary takes a commensurate dip, as often does their popularity or what is perceived as their reliability. It’s not fair because if women didn’t do this then family life would be even more endangered and confused than it already is, but nobody said commerce and domesticity made great bed partners - and women are keener on their children finding them reliable than on being available to their boss at all hours.

MP: As the graph above shows for the U.S. using BLS data, the average weekly hours for women has been gradually increasing, but men still work almost 6 more hours per week, or 16% more hours on average. At least part of any observed pay gap in the U.S. can certainly be explained by a 16% difference in the "hours worked gap." I don't have UK data, but I'm assuming there is an "hours gap" as well in the U.K., and the article seems to support that assumption.

Like in the U.S., cases of unequal pay for equal work is illegal in the U.K., and can be prosecuted. However, we should always allow for the fact that some differences in pay are based on personal choices made voluntarily, reflecting the tradeoffs between work and family. The article does a nice job of pointing out these tradeoffs.


Post a Comment

<< Home