Quick Hit: UK Equal Pay Day

Today is Equal Pay Day in the United Kingdom. The pay gap there, for full-time workers, is 17.1%. Meaning women make on average 17% less than men make.
This website has some interesting graphics that breakdown the details of the pay gap for two different cities in the UK, where the pay gap is actually reversed in the city with lower income overall.
More information here.

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5 Comments

  1. Jackson
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Permalink
  2. kandela
    Posted October 31, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Right, well I sat through all 5 parts of that. My first comment would be that the speaker seems to have learnt all his feminist theory from the popular media. If you choose to ignore that (and some of the resulting language) and listen to what he is saying then there are some ideas worth discussing.
    Firstly, the idea that disproportionate work-loads within marriage are responsible for a large part of the wage gap has merit. I’ll grant that, in fact, it is a very good point. What was said, in part, was that women are more inclined to do more of the work at home and so had less time/mental energy to invest in other things including those that might earn promotion. I’ll comment more on that in a minute, first I want to comment on the way children affect the equation.
    Statistics were quoted that said that amongst those that were never married there was virtually no pay gap. But that couples with children had the largest pay gap of all. The argument was that if you take women out of the workforce for a period of time they are not only have less opportunity to earn promotion, but they will tend to covet jobs that will allow them to re-enter the workforce without an associated steep learning curve. Basically women are making decisions about occupation based on spending part of their life raising children.
    That actually seems reasonable. BUT, I say this has less to do with biology than with the opportunities given to men and women to be involved in child rearing. And the opportunities given to each to re-integrate into their chosen profession if they do take time-out to raise children. You’ll find that the pay gap will be larger in technical occupations where taking time out places you further behind the eight-ball, for two reasons: a) the women who take those jobs and choose to have children will have accepted that they have a tougher road back, b) fewer men will take time out for the children if they are that occupation and will justify their decision using that very rationale.
    This is why we need to support more part-time positions for young mothers and fathers, why we need to support equal maternity and paternity leave. Equal opportunity breeds equal ambition in people’s minds. Show men they will have the same opportunities to be involved with their children without losing big time in their career and of course they’ll want the benefits of being more involved with their family. Show women that their are path ways back into steep learning-curve careers and that it is the same for everyone and they’ll be more likely to seek employment in those occupations.
    Now, back to the unequal distribution of labour in marriage (even without children). The speaker invoked evolutionary biology later in his talk. Presumably (because he didn’t actually say) he thinks the reasons women take on more of the house work are tied up in this. Also, earlier in his talk, he noted that while the capacity of men and women to do work in this century was essentially the same, it wasn’t in past centuries. In the past more occupations required greater upper body strength.
    Ok, I’m willing to except that for the sake of argument. But he’s failed to consider the role of history and tradition, nor has he considered the influence of examples, and the role they play in shaping our ambitions. Assuming what he says about capacity to do work in years gone by is true, does he really think that the roles developed in those times will not be handed down by tradition and example to our current generation?
    There is no need to invoke evolutionary biology to explain anything. The differences we see in present gender roles can be explained by something much more visible, namely preconceptions based on the opinions and traditions of the past. We know that popular memes take longer to die, we also know that a popular idea or opinion is not necessarily a good one.
    Those videos are worth watching. There are good points there but they don’t (apart from the evolutionary biology bit) argue against feminism as the speaker seems to think. What they do do, perhaps, is argue against certain ways of trying to break down sexism, and argue in favour of others.

  3. Jackson
    Posted October 31, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    “You’ll find that the pay gap will be larger in technical occupations where taking time out places you further behind the eight-ball, for two reasons: a) the women who take those jobs and choose to have children will have accepted that they have a tougher road back, b) fewer men will take time out for the children if they are that occupation and will justify their decision using that very rationale.”
    Mr. Block addressed the first point. as some (if not most) women desire to have a family and some (if not most) would like to take on a great deal of the traditional roles of a mother, they plan ahead to accomplish their own subjective goals. oftentimes this means planning to take certain careers that would not leave them in the dust if they take 6-12 months off. as for the second, what is the problem with men being less likely to take time off to raise children. I would imagine that in a vast majority of relationships, this is the desired setup (and though I’m not one who cares too much about empiricism, polls have shown this to be the case).
    “This is why we need to support more part-time positions for young mothers and fathers, why we need to support equal maternity and paternity leave. Equal opportunity breeds equal ambition in people’s minds. Show men they will have the same opportunities to be involved with their children without losing big time in their career and of course they’ll want the benefits of being more involved with their family. Show women that their are path ways back into steep learning-curve careers and that it is the same for everyone and they’ll be more likely to seek employment in those occupations.”
    I’m going to guess that this means ‘have the government regulate businesses in such a way that forces them to create such ‘equal ambition’. well, I certainly have a problem with this. do you think that ignoring the wishes of business owners, workers, and worker’s wives is acceptable? I do not.
    I also fail to see how men who work through their children’s earlier years are failing to be involved with their children. this idea is so shallow that it is just painful. it’s as if people don’t realize a father spending hours of day and large amounts of energy for his salary, and then taking that salary and turning it into a comfortable life for his child is less worthy than a father who works less but throws the ball around with the kid a bit more. I don’t really care to make such value judgments. I would prefer to let each individual family decide upon which lifestyle they would prefer and leaving them as many options to fulfill those different lifestyles as possible. if a father wanted paternity leave, he may take a certain job. if it is not necessary as his wife wants to raise the child more traditionally, he may take another job. if a woman wants to work throughout her pregnancy and even immediately after (a wonderful example of this can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l3j-mgOHqM ), then such options should be open.
    “Now, back to the unequal distribution of labour in marriage (even without children). The speaker invoked evolutionary biology later in his talk. Presumably (because he didn’t actually say) he thinks the reasons women take on more of the house work are tied up in this. Also, earlier in his talk, he noted that while the capacity of men and women to do work in this century was essentially the same, it wasn’t in past centuries. In the past more occupations required greater upper body strength.
    Ok, I’m willing to except that for the sake of argument. But he’s failed to consider the role of history and tradition, nor has he considered the influence of examples, and the role they play in shaping our ambitions. Assuming what he says about capacity to do work in years gone by is true, does he really think that the roles developed in those times will not be handed down by tradition and example to our current generation?”
    were your ambitions shaped by history and tradition? would you say that all nurses or housewives ambitions are shaped by history and tradition? I take a slightly different approach. every individual sets up their own subjective goals that they wish to meet and they go about a means which they believe will most effectively lead to that desired ends. if we see trends (or even traditions) perhaps it is not due to some type of socialization but the sincere popularity of certain desires. perhaps this would explain many male and female’s propensity towards certain careers or roles, even after over sixty years of women in the workplace showing that their productivity is, in most cases, not hampered by their sex. at least it is a better explanation of ‘oh I don’t like what some people do they must be brainwashed’.
    “There is no need to invoke evolutionary biology to explain anything.”
    I agree, and I wager that Mr. Block would agree as well. however, using praxeology (an a priori approach to understanding human action) would be well beyond most people in a university setting.
    “The differences we see in present gender roles can be explained by something much more visible, namely preconceptions based on the opinions and traditions of the past. We know that popular memes take longer to die, we also know that a popular idea or opinion is not necessarily a good one.”
    I’m not so certain that preconceptions is a good excuse for the behavior we see…and I’m certainly not so sure that it is a ‘more visible’ explanation.
    “Those videos are worth watching. There are good points there but they don’t (apart from the evolutionary biology bit) argue against feminism as the speaker seems to think. What they do do, perhaps, is argue against certain ways of trying to break down sexism, and argue in favour of others.”
    I don’t think Mr. Block was trying to argue against feminism. he was arguing against the idea that sexism (an idea put forth mainly from feminist thinkers) is the main cause for the pay gap between the sexes.

  4. kandela
    Posted October 31, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Block addressed the first point. as some (if not most) women desire to have a family and some (if not most) would like to take on a great deal of the traditional roles of a mother, they plan ahead to accomplish their own subjective goals. oftentimes this means planning to take certain careers that would not leave them in the dust if they take 6-12 months off.
    Yes, I realise that, I was attempting to recap for the benefit of those who didn’t watch the video.
    what is the problem with men being less likely to take time off to raise children. I would imagine that in a vast majority of relationships, this is the desired setup
    Ah, but my point is that if men and women were equally able to take time off to get more involved with their children, it wouldn’t be the case that this unequal state of desire would exist.
    I’m going to guess that this means ‘have the government regulate businesses in such a way that forces them to create such ‘equal ambition’. well, I certainly have a problem with this. do you think that ignoring the wishes of business owners, workers, and worker’s wives is acceptable? I do not.
    Well, a large part of a government’s job is to create a fair and equitable system in which a country’s citizens can pursue their ambitions. It is not a case of creating ‘equal ambition,’ but rather an environment in which people have an equal opportunity to pursue ambition regardless of gender.
    Also, I think you are underestimating “business owners, workers, and worker’s wives,” a system with more flexibility allowing for greater choice for workers leads to a happier workforce, which is more productive, and this makes business owners happy (generally). It’s about better quality of life, and that’s something we can all be happy about.
    I also fail to see how men who work through their children’s earlier years are failing to be involved with their children. this idea is so shallow that it is just painful. it’s as if people don’t realize a father spending hours of day and large amounts of energy for his salary, and then taking that salary and turning it into a comfortable life for his child is less worthy than a father who works less but throws the ball around with the kid a bit more. I don’t really care to make such value judgments.
    That’s not what I said at all. In fact I agree that financial support is a valuable contribution. What I said was that being able to spend time with children is valuable for fathers. Being able to spend time raising your children as a parent is rewarding. More than that a greater involvement with family has social and mental health benefits. At present men do not have the same opportunities as women to engage with their children (and that conversely puts more pressure on women to fulfil that role), I say that if you provide equal opportunity then choices will reflect that.
    I would prefer to let each individual family decide upon which lifestyle they would prefer and leaving them as many options to fulfill those different lifestyles as possible. if a father wanted paternity leave, he may take a certain job. if it is not necessary as his wife wants to raise the child more traditionally, he may take another job. if a woman wants to work throughout her pregnancy and even immediately after (a wonderful example of this can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l3j-mgOHqM ), then such options should be open.
    Well that’s great. No really, that’s a step in the right direction but more can be done. There is no reason why many jobs that aren’t involved parent friendly can’t be made to be. For one thing many high paying jobs are those that traditionally belonged to men and so impetus to create a more involved parent friendly structure has been slower in coming.
    I take a slightly different approach. every individual sets up their own subjective goals that they wish to meet and they go about a means which they believe will most effectively lead to that desired ends. if we see trends (or even traditions) perhaps it is not due to some type of socialization but the sincere popularity of certain desires.
    Individuals do not exist in a vacuum. The goals that you set up form as a result of your interactions with society. But further, an individuals goals are shaped by what they feel they can achieve. Socialisation is not a myth, it is a catch all term we use to describe the subtle forces that shape ones perceptions. Boys and girls are given different perceptions of what they can achieve by the society around them.
    I don’t deny that there are differences between men and women, however I do say that biological differences are too small to account for the scope of the trends we see. The difference between men and women is one chromosome out of forty-six. The differences between men and women are exaggerated by our society.
    Take colour perception for example their is a widely held belief that women have better colour perception than men. For a small percentage of the population that is true but in general it is not. Colour perception is the governed by the number of colour sensitive receptors in the eye. Most people (men and women) have three distinct receptors, the colour blind, around 8% of men, have only 2, less than 1% of women have 4 giving them greater ability to distinguish tones. This leaves a massive overlap, where women and men have equal potential to distinguish colour. Any remaining difference you might observe in the ability of men and women to perceive colour is a result of socialisation.
    I’m not so certain that preconceptions is a good excuse for the behavior we see…and I’m certainly not so sure that it is a ‘more visible’ explanation.
    Perhaps I phrased that badly. More what I meant was that historical gender roles form part of our popular culture, as such they influence the gender schemas that subtly shape/dull our ambitions.
    To me it seems more visible, I’m tempted to say that if you can’t it’s a you can’t see the forest for the trees thing, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt perhaps biology really does seem like the more obvious answer but when our cultural biases are so prevalent I take the opposite view.
    I don’t think Mr. Block was trying to argue against feminism. he was arguing against the idea that sexism (an idea put forth mainly from feminist thinkers) is the main cause for the pay gap between the sexes.
    Yes, fair point. There is a distinction there. I don’t think Mr. Block does a very good job of making that distinction though. Indeed he pays the alternate theories little respect, which I think is poor form. In any case I think the situation he describes is still sexist, but he has done quite a good job of determining the nature of the sexism, i.e. inequality in workloads amongst those who are married. Among those without children I think this situation is one that is well explained by socialisation and cultural tradition.

  5. Edrick
    Posted November 1, 2009 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    This comment has been deleted because it violates our comment policy.

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