Home Feminism Gender Equality In Pay Is A Luxury

Gender Equality In Pay Is A Luxury



Or, to be perhaps more accurate, gender equality in income is a luxury good. For it appears that when we get poorer we do less of it and, historically, we’ve been doing more of it when we become richer. This being what a luxury good – as opposed to the colloquial meaning of luxury – is, something we devote more of our income to as our income rises.

This is of course causing all sorts of whining among those not understanding this basic point:

At the centre of women’s predicament is the expectation that they will sacrifice their own economic viability to provide care at home. The burden of care is the single biggest barrier to women’s economic participation everywhere in the world, whether in employment or business ownership.

There’s a significant error in an assumption there, that only paid, market, work is economic. This is entire nonsense. There’s a certain amount of labour that has to be performed to keep a household – or family, either or both of which is the basic human economic unit – on the road. Some of that is that work external to the household creating that cash surplus that can be used to buy goods and services in the outside the household economy. Some other amount of that work needs to be done within the household. It is simply wrong to say that one side of this is “economic” and the other isn’t. Sure, one is monetised but that’s a different thing.

But back to this predicament thing. That women, voluntarily, do something is a problem why?

Or even, that women do something economically logical is a predicament? Think on it, that household is the economic unit of interest, There are, say, 120 hours of work in a week available in a 2 adult household. Sure, maybe that should be divided 40 hours market work, 20 hours household each.

Now, let us vary something. There is less of that market work available, more of that needs to be substituted with the household variety. Whose work is it that should stop being in the market and be added to the household side? The bit that brings in the least to add to the household cash pile with which to purchase imports from other households, obviously.

Given that women do on average earn less per hour than men – this difference being true at near whatever the household income is – then it should, logically, be the women who do that substitution.

And if everyone’s doing what makes logical sense then why is this a problem?



  1. “The burden of care is the single biggest barrier to women’s economic participation everywhere in the world”
    So, ban women from taking on the burden of care. Problem solved, ban it away.

  2. ER, Tim, the main gender difference in pay is not the differential in pay per hour but the number of hours worked that are paid for (yes, there’s also the fact that men gravitate towards higher-paid jobs and women towards jobs that they find congenial or fit in with their lifestyle), but the BIG difference is that men are (and are expected to) work harder for longer.

    • Uh… you’re saying that a year off work (with pay and a job to come back to) actually hurts a career? The cognitive dissonance oh how it hurts… 🙂

      • @ Michael van der Riet
        In my job, it would – spending three months abroad on an important project lost me several clients while I was away and a year out of circulation would mean she missed out on a lot of background information, sme of which would matter at an unexpected point later in her career.
        However that is not jgh’s point. Early in my actuarial training I learnt that married women take significantly more time off “sick” than single women who take significantly more than men [we had to learn that, and the %ages, as some of us might be required to design or revise health insurance schemes]


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