Monday, October 16, 2006

Arndt on the wage gap

Bettina Arndt has a terrific piece in this morning's Herald Sun, in which she explains the reasons men tend to earn more than women. Given that Herald Sun articles are only availabe online for a short time, I've reproduced the article below.

Why men are paid more

October 16, 2006

EVERY few years the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases data about the gender wage gap. And every time the Labor Party announces the sky is falling in.

The fact that men earn more than women is presented as proof that the country is going backward under Howard. The white picket fence is rising up to capture us all.

Everyone who participates in this farce knows full well that these wage-gap statistics are meaningless.

So, what if the average woman in Australia earns $300 less per week than the average man.

That statistic fails to take in account the hours worked. In fact, the average Australian Joe Blow works almost twice as many hours as the average Jenny Blow, according to data HILDA, the Household Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia survey.

Since he's putting in twice as many hours, I hope Joe Blow would earn far more. Not only does he work far longer hours, he's also far more likely to take on hazardous jobs such as mining, construction, trucking, he's more likely to be willing to move overseas, or to an undesirable location on demand and has trained for more technical jobs with less people contact.

In fact, the wage gap hasn't much to do with discrimination, or conservative governments trying to keep women in their place. Differences in the way men and women behave in the workplace largely determine how much they earn.

Women are more likely to balance income with a desire for safety, fulfilment, flexibility and proximity to home. These lifestyle advantages lead to more people competing for jobs and thus lower pay.

Wage gaps tend to disappear when women put in the same hours and have the same experience, training and work history as men. In Australia, similarly trained men and women under 30 show similar earnings. It is only in the older age groups that wage gaps start to widen, according to Mark Woden at the Melbourne Institute.

Yet men and women still tend not to have the same training. A London School of Economics study of more than 10,000 British graduates found the men started off earning 12 per cent more than the women.

The reason? Most of the women had majored in the social sciences, while many men chose engineering, maths and computing.

While more than half the women said their primary interest was a socially useful job, men were twice as likely to mention salary.

SIMILAR patterns emerge here. Graduate women in Australia, who move into traditional male professions, often start off earning more than men. For instance, the average starting salary for female geologists in Australia is $60,000 compared to $52,000 for men.

When women go into potentially high-earning careers, many end up earning far less than their male colleagues because of the way they structure their working lives. Look at female doctors. To get into medicine, these women were as ambitious and hard-working as any of their male colleagues.

But a few years down the track it's a different story. Current figures show a female GP works in her paid job only 63 per cent of the hours put in by a male, although clearly many face a second shift at home.

Women are making choices. Yes, these choices are constrained by their family responsibilities. That's the reason they work those shorter hours and seek the lower paid, but more flexible work closer to home.

Australian women still choose to take time out when their children are young, then return to part-time work. They miss out on financial rewards but are more content. The latest HILDA survey clearly shows women working part-time are more satisfied than full-time working women.

The part-timers are far happier with their work-life balance and just as satisfied with their jobs as the full-timers. In fact, more than half the women working full-time want to work fewer hours while just over a third of the part-timers want to work more.

Yes, there are still glass ceilings, pockets of discrimination, but the major reason men earn more than women is the trade-offs women choose to make. So, the next time Anne Summers bleats about wage gaps, you'll know she's trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Wage gap talk is a con job.

I'll add just one brief point to Bettina Arndt's efforts. It makes little sense to oppose male earnings and female earnings. It's not as if the male wage stays with men, to be used for the purposes of men. What men earn is mostly spent on the upkeep of a family; a lot of it, in fact, will ultimately be spent by women.

So even the framework of the "male wage" debate is misconceived. The money earned by men is not really "male" income, but family income which women directly share. Women have an interest in encouraging their husbands to earn a good income, and this too helps to explain why the gender gap in wages still persists.


  1. Since he's putting in twice as many hours, I hope Joe Blow would earn far more.

    Well, he works more in his paid employment!

    I work as hard as my husband and for $0. That doesn't bother me, but I'm not entirely happy with the "he works more" construction.

    Not only does he work far longer hours, he's also far more likely to take on hazardous jobs such as mining, construction, trucking, he's more likely to be willing to move overseas, or to an undesirable location on demand and has trained for more technical jobs with less people contact.

    I have no problem with jobs paying more for dangerous work and I have no objection to men doing those jobs.

    But why should "technical jobs" pay more than people centred jobs?

    I have a degree in Civil Engineering, but I'm a full-time at home mum - very much by choice.

    I agree on the whole with Arndt's points, but my job as mum is more difficult than engineering - hands down!!

    It's also much more difficult being a social worker imo (I have done that too).

    I don't really see why traditionally "female" jobs should pay less per hour than traditionally "male" jobs.

    Having said that, the ALP drive me nuts with their "let's get women into the workforce fulltime" blather.

  2. Raising child-rearing as a ‘job’ (as often comes up) – is evasive of the workforce issue.

    Yeah, 'cos we all know that money (a mere token) is more important than things (like labour and goods).

    Sorry, but I just don't think that what gets done in the paid workforce is of greater consequence or more important than what is done in the home and community.

    We are in a wage-slave economy (no, I'm not a socialist) and therefore I think the whole paid/unpaid work thing is a load of old cobblers.

    Unless you’re going to work as a professional child-carer, then the point is mute when caring for one’s own child. No-one is going to pay people for their ‘personal’ life. No matter how difficult it is.

    No kidding. But why should I wish to be paid for doing what I believe is intrinsically worthwhile.

    My point is this. Caring for children is harder (whether at home or in childcare) and more important - yes, more important! - than any merely technical job.

    The contrast I provided was just to show that I have some knowledge of both types of work.

    Because the care of people, whether children or not is more important than the mere care of things (which is only slightly less important), traditionally "female" jobs should, if anything, be paid better.

  3. You admit that ‘caring’ and ‘humanity’ is more important than the corporate world – but then you ‘flip’ to wanting those things valued by the same ‘token’ that the corporate world values – that is ‘money’.

    Society values money. I really don't care about the corporate world. I do care about society. If women are 'caring' in paid employment, I can't see why they should be paid less than people who are merely working with things. The reason I think this sucks is because of what it says about society.

    I will *personally* continue to work for $0, because I don't care about either status or remuneration or anything of that kind. I do what I believe I'm called to do.

    And I *can* do it because my huband, as Mark R pointed out in this post, is spending all of his income caring for us, his family. For which I am indeed very grateful.

    Either you accept that corporations/money are the root of all evil and separate yourself from them – or you work within it’s framework and make money by a business-model’s syntax of ‘consumer-demand’.

    The *love* of money is the root of all evil. Money is just a tool. And what it's for is to exchange goods and services so that people can live. The problem is that economists etc only see dollar values. Hence my work which is literally priceless is overlooked as nothing because it has a price tag of $0.

    The only way the ‘caring’ sector (read; teaching, elderly care, etc) will get paid more is when there is a higher ‘demand’ for it. The corporate world is a-moral. It’s a machine with no scuples or ethics.

    No. Not true I'm afraid. There are good economies and bad ones. Ours is not as bad as it might be. But it's not good.

    It would be a better economy if most of the caring were predominantly done for $0 within the family! The reason I've been defending higher wages for caring professions is as a compromise with the reality of our economy at this time.

    When most families own the means of production and can arrange the work of the family in whatever ways they choose and when there is greater connection with extended family in all this, then we will have a more just economy.

    But NOT to a engineering firm, or business. Child caring doesn’t hold much value in the corporate world. The problem you have Lyl, is that you DON’t value money/corporations (and Im not against you on this totally) – but you DO want them to value your beliefs.

    No, Bobby N, I don't give a shit if corporations value what I do or think or anything. I *do* care very much what society thinks about these issues.

    It’s a largely feminist mindset, “I hate them, but they must value me’

    Do please stop confounding my ideas with these people. Truly, I just don't give a rats arse if corporations value *me* or not. I do despise corporations. But not people. It's people I care about, In particular, I care about my family - especially my kids. But since I do also care for other people, I would like to see a more just society. Including the economy.

    it was feminism that went against the ‘important’ things (like caring, kids, family)

    Exactly, which is what I hate about it.

  4. This seems to misrepresent wage gap statistics. Any sensible measure of the wage gap compares male and female full-time earnings at different points in the wage distribution, but often summarised by the median. So differences in hours worked don't explain the gap, unless you use the dodgy measure which averages across full-time and part-time workers. And I'd be fairly certain that the ABS doesn't do that

    I also agree with Lyl - when you look at data on time use you find that mothers who combine paid employment and work at home provide more hours in total than their husbands (also adding in men's work at home in addition to paid work)

  5. It’s also a personal decision resulting from sex that adults need to take responsibility for themselves, and not expect it to be subsidized by money/tax/public, etc.

    Bobby N, I don't expect any "subsidy" from the guvvermint whatsoever...but...if we look at the family allowance type "payments" for example, what we will really discover is that the money flowing back to families is *meant* to refund those families that portion of taxation which ethically and philosophically speaking the gov't never had the right to touch in the first place.

    Clearly, ethically speaking, the tax-free threshold is meant to be the money a worker needs in order to survive. Unless one is living at home still, no-one can survive on $6000 p.a. so practially it isn't doing what it should be doing. Be that as it may, no gov't has the right to tax that portion of the family's or individual's income which is required to cover the basic necessities of life. The state must always and everywhere have the life of its members at the centre of its agenda. It must support and uphold life, not destroy or undermine it. This should be obvious.

    Now obviously also, the family has greater material needs than the individual and the tax-free threshold needs to be adjusted accordingly. This is just the family allowance "payment."

    Clearly also, this gov't needs to increas dramatically the tax-free threshold for an individual. The current rate is manifestly absurd.

    You are absolutely right, however, when you state that parents must take responsibility for their children. You're spot on there.

    Yes it’s hard work – but it’s ‘private’ hard work where the product you make is largely valued only to yourself, until it gets older of course.

    I can't agree here. Society is made up of families and individuals. That includes children. Children are life! They are life in society - even if they should not live to adulthood - they are intrinsically valuable just as they are. Children are an enormous blessing to everyone. Even though most people don't think so.

    The majority too, are tomorrow's workers and parents. What I do today with my kids means the world to society in the future, but also now. If only all parents were as good as they could possibly be! If only all children were loved and adequately cared for! The world would still not be perfect, because none of us is perfect. But it would undeniably be much, much better!

    Again, I really don't care if no-one else in the world sees things this way. It is true - demonstrably true - nonetheless.

  6. Here is a word you might like to consider thinking about:


    When I said I really don't care if no-one else in the world sees things this way. It is true - demonstrably true - nonetheless I was trying to point out in an over-the-top kind of way that:

    1. I believe in absolutes. So that even if no-one in the world believed that God exists, for example, then it wouldn't suddenly be the end of God. Either He exists, or He doesn't and that fact will be the case regardless of what any human believes.

    2. I do believe that my vocation as a wife and mother is very important. It's very hard not to become discouraged (an emotion which even men experience, I'm told) when it seems that nearly everyone in society thinks what I do is unimportant. So when I say, "I don't care..." I strictly mean that "I cannot afford to care too much what others think, because I must press on with what is important in my life." Don't we all have to do what we think is right? Aren't we all responsible for our own lives? This is what I mean. And I was being deliberately over-the-top about it. And I think it's a long-used literary technique.

    And when I said, It is true - demonstrably true - nonetheless
    I was saying that this absolute truth (i.e. "motherhood is very important"), which will still be true regardless of who does or doesn't believe it, is also able to be defended by reason.

    And then you accuse me of taking a dive off the emotional deep end. Well, undoubtedly my writing was emotional, but once again, I think I can defend rationally everything I said:

    The majority too, are tomorrow's workers and parents.

    Care to disagree with that?

    What I do today with my kids means the world to society in the future, but also now.

    Are people, or things, more important? Because we are persons, we are more important than things.

    Society would not exist if people did not exist.

    Surely the quality of society is largely dependent on the quality of people.

    Therefore, how I bring my children up will affect the future good of society, since my children are the workers and parents of tomorrow.

    But although they are children now, they are by no means inconsequential. They have as much inherent dignity as adults do. They should not be mistreated. Surely, if most parents mistreated their children this would be a sign of a bad society.

    If only all parents were as good as they could possibly be! If only all children were loved and adequately cared for!

    It should be fairly plain that children who are brought up fairly well will - generally - be pretty decent adults.

    The world would still not be perfect, because none of us is perfect.

    You wish to disagree?

    But it would undeniably be much, much better!

    Society won't be better if all children are better cared for?

    Whether you respond or not, I think it was right that I should present the rational side of the argument.

    Kind regards.