Thursday, November 05, 2009

Would you accept this offer?

Here's an amazing story from England. The issue of equal pay has moved to another phase. It's no longer enough to have equal pay for the same work. The demand now is for an overall equal outcome: the system is to be rejigged so that women end up earning as much as men.

This has led to an extraordinary situation in Leeds. Refuse collectors there have been paid a salary of 18,000 pounds - about $32,000 Australian dollars or $29,000 US dollars - a low wage by Australian standards.

The Leeds Council has been required by equal pay legislation to reclassify work so that women end up earning the same as men. The result? The mostly male refuse workers were asked to take a massive pay cut of 25%. They would end up earning only 13,500 pounds - less than $25,000 Australian dollars.

In return, dinner ladies would be paid slightly more than they are now - but in general the demand for equal pay is to be achieved by cutting the male wage rather than by raising the wages of women.

Not surprisingly, the binmen have refused to accept the large pay cut and have been on strike for a month.

This is another example of how conditions for many men are eroding in modern society. Andrew Beveridge has provided data showing that between 1970 and 2005, real female wages in America increased from 67% to 89% of real male wages. This might sound like a gain for women workers - but it's not. The increase was not due to real female wages rising - they didn't - but to a fall in the male wage. This doesn't help women at all as it makes it more difficult for men to earn a living wage to support their families.

18 comments:

  1. I would quit. Let everyone's trash be picked up by women and see how they like it.

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  2. "I would quit. Let everyone's trash be picked up by women and see how they like it."

    No, the Government would replace them with imported Third World workers in a heartbeat on the grounds that there are chronic "labour shortages" in the sector that need to be filled.

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  3. If those woman want to get paid as well as those garbage men why don’t they just get jobs as garbage men? Or maybe they don’t think working outside in all kinds of weather hauling smelly garbage is worth the pay?

    DJF

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  4. In return, dinner ladies would be paid slightly more than they are now - but in general the demand for equal pay is to be achieved by cutting the male wage rather than by raising the wages of women.

    This is putting things in a rather misleading fashion. We've seen numerous times in history, here and abroad, that when women's work is cheaper than men's, capitalists will tend to employ more women. This is far more undermining of men's working conditions than women asking for equal pay. It's clearly not feminists who are th problem here but capitalists. Virtually every profession dominated by females - and many of these areas involve either menial duties or 'caring' (i.e. nursing, aged care, etc) - involve poor pay and conditions.

    The corollary of Mr Richardson's mischievous argument here is the claim that immigrants/refugees are to blame for declining wags (this ins't as much of an issue in Australia, but real wages in the US have declined since the 1970s). Of course, this position conveniently ignores the facts associated with globalisation. Labour is undermined at home not because of the unruly women or immigrants in our midst, but because of cheaper labour abroad. Dollars and cents know no national loyalties. Rather than campaign for inequality, you would do well to argue for the abolition of exploitative labour, instead of the current race to the bottom.

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  5. Sorry, 'wags' above is meant to be 'wages.

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  6. "The corollary of Mr Richardson's mischievous argument here is the claim that immigrants/refugees are to blame for declining wags (this ins't as much of an issue in Australia, but real wages in the US have declined since the 1970s). Of course, this position conveniently ignores the facts."

    That is a really jejune argument, THR. By your logic, every developed country should have experienced a decline in real wages since the advent of economic globalisation. Yet this is far from the case, with many European and Asian economies experiencing impressive growth in real wages at the very same time American wages were stagnating.

    "Labour is undermined at home not because of the unruly women or immigrants in our midst, but because of cheaper labour abroad. Dollars and cents know no national loyalties."

    As far as I understand it, globalisation involves the free flow of capital and goods, not labour. The billions of Third Worlders don't have the right to live and work in Western countries for the reason that it would, among other things, decimate local wages. Hence the countries with highly restrictive immigration policies have tighter labor markets and higher wages across the board.

    Until the day comes where the "workers of the world unite" and we have a single global labour market, wages will continue to be determined at the national level by vicissitudes in local supply and demand.

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  7. Meanwhile, the ladies still expect to be wined and dined and have jewelry bought for them...

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  8. Virtually every profession dominated by females - and many of these areas involve either menial duties or 'caring' (i.e. nursing, aged care, etc) - involve poor pay and conditions.

    Poor pay yes, poor conditions, no. Women are most dominant in the jobs where wages are modest and works conditions are relatively good. Women tend to more numerous in jobs like retail, primary education and office work, and are conspiciously absent from jobs like fishing, mining heavy industry and construction where conditions are dirty and dangerous, but wages are relatively high.

    Looking after the aged, would be about the only area where women probably get the worst of both worlds.

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  9. This is putting things in a rather misleading fashion. We've seen numerous times in history, here and abroad, that when women's work is cheaper than men's, capitalists will tend to employ more women.

    There is a significant debate to be had here about capitalism. But the specific example I raised is really about something else. It is about a public body (Leeds Council) reacting to legislation passed by a government body. It has more to do with politics than with economics.

    And I stand by the basic point I made. It's no longer about equal pay for equal work. It's about equality of outcome no matter what.

    Here's another example. Judges in Britain have decided that men can't be paid more if they have more experience than women because this means women tend not to earn as much due to women's absences from the workforce.

    The system is being rejigged again to try to engineer an equality of outcome - even if this means there is a procedural inequality (a woman being paid as much as a man despite having less experience).

    The reason for this rejigging is a political one. If you see autonomy as the overriding good, with autonomy being measured by money and career status, then justice will require an equal distribution between men and women of money and career status.

    Most people don't think this way - they think there are other important goods besides individual autonomy, which justifies men and women doing different things.

    But liberals are committed politically to autonomy as an organising principle of society. So they won't rest until they've found some way to engineer things to get the equality of outcome.

    It won't be easy for them to do this, though. A lot of women become much less committed to paid work in their 30s, after they've done the single girl thing in their 20s. Only a minority of women want to do the high powered career thing after this time.

    So to overcome the remaining wages gap the system is going to have to be engineered in quite radical ways to artificially equalise wages outcomes between men and women.

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  10. There is a significant debate to be had here about capitalism. But the specific example I raised is really about something else. It is about a public body (Leeds Council) reacting to legislation passed by a government body. It has more to do with politics than with economics.

    And I stand by the basic point I made. It's no longer about equal pay for equal work. It's about equality of outcome no matter what.


    Well, therein lies the problem. THe council should have raised the wages of both men and women to an acceptable level. And yes, there is nothing wrong with men and women being paid equally for the same work.

    We need to remember a bit of history and context here. For 150 years, Tories have not been on the side of workers, but on the side of the policeman kicking them down. THe onyl real thing that links the various leaders of modern conservatism (Howard, Thatcher, Reagan, etc) is utter contempt for organised labour, and workers in general. You will forgive me if I'm sceptical when it comes to conservatives touting workers' rights.

    Anonymous at 5.26 - the reason that wages have not dropped in Australia, in toto, is that manufacturing has been moved offshore, unemployment stats have been rigged, and huge profits in the mining sector and elsewhere have disguised some very real problems. Do not think for one second that there are not many Australians doing it tough, for reasons entirely unconnected with 'autonomy' or 'liberalism'.

    Economic 'liberals' have, in the past few years, been among the most opposed to wage increases and legislated protections of workers' rights.

    Poor pay yes, poor conditions, no.

    Mike, I'll agree that there aren't too many women miners or truckies. However, it doesn't follow that women's working conditions, particualrly in the 'helping professions', are good. Most women who work with abused children, the disabled, the elderly, the chronically ill, etc, have massive workloads, stressful work, few resources, and low pay. The burden is not physical as it is in the case of miners, but I dare say that few miners could ever do it. (And miners are often well-rewarded when it comes to labour, from what I hear).

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  11. The reason for this rejigging is a political one. If you see autonomy as the overriding good, with autonomy being measured by money and career status, then justice will require an equal distribution between men and women of money and career status.


    Nonsense. How would you feel if you had a colleague who did exactly the same job as you, but earned thousands more, solely as a result of their sex? How could such an arrangement breed anything other than (justified) anger and resentment?

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  12. How would you feel if you had a colleague who did exactly the same job as you, but earned thousands more, solely as a result of their sex?

    But what is this supposed to mean? Men earn more because they choose higher paid professions, because they don't work part-time and because they don't drop out as much.

    In response to this, women have been given a number of work-place advantages compared to men. They get hiring preferences in some industries; they get paid maternity leave in many industries; and at the executive level they are paid slightly more than men.

    Women in their 20s already earn as much as men and, given the dominance of women at university, it won't be long before they earn more.

    The problem for liberals is that a lot of women do exceptionally well in their careers but then hit their 30s and wonder if it all adds up to a meaningful life. They begin to look for more creative work, or part-time work and some marry and have children.

    So the only way for liberals to make earnings outcomes equal is to give up the equal pay for equal work idea and instead find ways to pay women more than men for the same work.

    Paid maternity leave is one means of doing this. It means that a female worker who spends, say, 10 years working for a company (and 3 years at home with her kids on paid maternity leave) will earn nearly as much as a man who spends 13 years working for a company. The amount earned by a male worker per hour will end up considerably less than that paid to the female worker.

    And there will be a lot more such policies to follow. There will be policies which discriminate against men in order pursue the aim of equal earnings outcomes.

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  13. Anonymous said: "How would you feel if you had a colleague who did exactly the same job as you, but earned thousands more, solely as a result of their sex? How could such an arrangement breed anything other than (justified) anger and resentment?"

    They don't. Garbage men do a very different job to tea ladies. The hours are different - 'garbo's get up in the dark when tea ladies are still asleep - and the nature of the work is different - 'garbo's deal with stinking refuse that nobody else wants to touch and are out in the elements while tea ladies are indoors with the pleasant aroma of cooking food. Of course garbage men should be paid more! Only a Communist would think otherwise.

    If anyone is being paid more for no other reason than their sex, it is women. Again and again, I see female friends getting jobs for which there are much better male candidates. Men are not being viewed as having an equal workplace value. That is political, and it stinks!

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  14. We're still yet to see a single person argue for equal pay for equal work here, or for better working conditions all round. It makes your concerns for male workers seem less than sincere. In any case:

    A woman starting work today will retire having earned $1 million less than a man doing the same job, and with less than half the superannuation of her male counterparts...

    While women are now more likely to have a tertiary qualification than men, women graduates will earn $2000 less than their male counterparts on entering the workforce. By the fifth year after graduation, the gap will have widened to $7400.


    http://www.theage.com.au/executive-style/executive-women/women-still-trail-in-pay-stakes-20090830-f41o.html

    As we can see, the facts don't exactly support the idea of a 'liberal' or 'feminist' push to emnasculate men's wages. In the US, women's wages have been decreasing with respect to men's:

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/censusandstatistics/a/paygapgrows.htm

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  15. Sory that last link was cut off:

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/censusandstatistics/a/paygapgrows.htm

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  16. A woman starting work today will retire having earned $1 million less than a man doing the same job

    This misrepresents the situation. It makes it sound like they've done the same amount of work but the woman has been paid less.

    Chances are that the woman will marry and reduce her work commitments while her husband will increase his own. The husband will end up earning more over a lifetime - but not for his own benefit but for that of his family, including his wife.

    In the meantime, the wages for many men are falling making it more difficult for them to support their families on a single wage.

    I've already linked to Andrew Beveridge's data. Another US study, based on Department of Labor statistics, showed similar results.

    According to this second study, the wages of men with bachelor degrees did rise, but for all other men (i.e. the majority of men) wages fell considerably between 1979 and 2005. For the least educated men they fell 28% during this period.

    So we have a situation of rapidly falling real wages for many men in the US. This impacts not only on them personally but on their wives and children as well.

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  17. Anonymous said: "We're still yet to see a single person argue for equal pay for equal work here...."

    Perhaps that's because it's taken for granted. If female 'garbo's were being paid less than male ones, or if male food attendants were being paid more than female ones, then no doubt you would see arguments along that line. But that sort of discrimination is a thing of the past. What's happening now is a push for equality of outcome, regardless of difference in work.

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  18. No, the Government would replace them with imported Third World workers in a heartbeat

    So what? They're going to do that anyway.

    THe onyl real thing that links the various leaders of modern conservatism (Howard, Thatcher, Reagan, etc) is utter contempt for organised labour, and workers in general.

    The thing that amazes me is that Labour / Left / USA Democrat manage to represent themselves as the party of the little guy, and get away with it, while at the same time pushing for "open borders" unlimited immigration that hurts nobody else more than the working classes and organized labor. If the Left did not hold the workers in utter contempt, it would not be trying to replace them in every English-speaking country with NAM immigrants.

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