Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Equal Pay Day -- Still Nothing to Celebrate

Reminding us that Equal Pay remains an elusive goal, the Institute for Women's Policy Research released excellent data and analysis of the persistent gender wage gap.  Sadly, women continue to earn less than men across the board: whether they are employed in traditionally female occupations or in traditionally male ones, women earn less than men in the same jobs: women surgeons, women housekeepers, and women salespersons, for example, all earn less than men doing the same job.  Women also earn less than men in comparable, though not identical jobs, if those jobs are populated mostly by men.  In the labor market as a whole, women in general earn less than men.

According to IWPR: "The ten most common occupations for women employ 28.8 percent of all female full-time workers. Median weekly earnings for women range from $1,039 for ‘registered nurses’ to $427 for ‘nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides’ (Table 1). Women earn less than men in each of these occupations; the gender wage ratio ranges from 74.9 percent for ‘accountants and auditors’ to 95.4 percent for ‘customer service representatives.’... For men, the ten most common occupations employ 20.0 percent of all male full-time workers. Median weekly earnings for men range from $2,217 for ‘chief executives’ and $1,590 for ‘computer software engineers’ to $508 for ‘laborers and freight, stock, and material movers’ (Table 1). Women earn less than men in each of these occupations (although there are too few women ‘construction laborers’ to calculate a gender wage ratio there)." http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/the-gender-wage-gap-by-occupation-updated-april-2011/

It's pretty embarrassing that 47 years after the nation pledged itself to pay women equally in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, work continues to be devalued if it is performed by women.  Lower earnings for women mean disproportionate economic insecurity and poverty for women.  So on this Equal Pay Day we should demand heightened governmental commitment to achieving equal or comparable pay in and between jobs.  Along with this, we need government to strengthen, not undermine, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security -- and all other programs that help women and their families survive despite a lifetime of unequal, low wages.

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