Equal pay for equal work!” It sounds like an echo from 1968, a remnant from a bygone idealism, but it is indeed the parole telling us that the unions have engaged in yet another collective labor negotiation. Ever since the women acquired a right to vote, the same song has chimed from the unions in the traditional woman professions – well, probably before then, but at that time it seems women were more occupied with getting the right to vote rather than taking on the humongous task of obtaining a competitive paycheck at the end of the month.
Getting back to the “equal pay for equal work” statement; it’s hard to argue against in any context, but in this context I am sure there are some stubborn headed Neanderthals of the male gender that would beg them differ. But disregarding this dying race, the rest of us, males and females alike, can surely agree that it is only fair.
The problem is however not with the five words themselves, but in the underlying assumption behind the statement; namely that women provide the same work as males. I would argue that they don’t and if you hear me out, then I’ll explain why it should be evident – though obviously hard to swallow for the female rights activists who as all activists have become so caught up in their self-pity that they are beyond reason.
Let’s talk statistics for a short while – not the kind generally used by politicians where they provide a number of figures without the underlying assumptions to justify a political agenda – but a general intuitive kind of statistics: When we are talking equal pay for women and men alike, then we need to generalize both in order to talk the same language as the unions and to get beyond the numerous cases that falls outside of the norm. And that is a good thing, because the law of big numbers dictate that with larger numbers, the trend becomes systematic, thereby predictable and that is what we want to base our analysis and decisions on when we are rational.
In general, women are paid less than men. This could be because there continue to be more females represented in traditional women professions that tend to be less lucratively paid. Quickly eluding the discussion about whether these professions should get better paid, or if they are traditionally dominated by women simply because they are not paid well enough to attract men, we can even compare men and women in the same métier. Even here, statistics show that there is a gap from the female wage up to the male one. And that is only reasonable.
You see, the one signing the paycheck at the end of the month will inevitably look at the expected workload that the employee can carry – not today, not this week, this month of this year, but throughout their career. If we have an average Danish female – using Danes makes sense since this is the statistics I know best and since the equality is among the highest in the world as it is today – she will in her lifetime get 2,3 kids. At this time women often take approximately a year off on maternity leave – per child! Some spend it over a longer period and call it something else, but the fact remains that each child cost the mother a year off work – in fact is most likely more, but we are just illustrating a point here. Then someone who is more worried about what society can do for them, than what they can do for society, invented the term Paternity leave – really just another excuse for the spoiled westerners to work less, and suck the competitiveness out of a collectively misguided people, that insists that high wages and low working hours can keep us on track due to the power of an expensively acquired knowhow provided by a factually ineffective educational system. But paternity leave should even out the score a bit and we can afford to give it some credit, so let’s say the men take a month off in average.
Doing a bit of “back on an envelope”-math : With five weeks of vacation and a bunch of bank holidays there are approximately 220 working days in a year. Working from the age of 25 through 65 people work 40 years which gives us 8.800 working days. Men take an average of 2,3 months off work due to paternity leave – assuming they are smart enough to elude the given holidays they have 25 working days in a month, meaning they take an average of 58 days off due to paternity leave. Meanwhile women take 2,3 years off work to tend to the kids equal to 506 working days. In other words, men take 0,66% of their career off on paternity leave, while women take 5,75% off of their career – a difference of 5,09%. Based on this, men represent a 5,09% higher value to the employer.
But the math gets worse for the average woman. The mother us usually the one who gets called on when the little chump is sent home from daycare with some odd illness or when the kid needs to go to the doctor or dentist, further decreasing the female value to the employer. And all of these days is time wasted where the woman may learn a lot, but most likely not the kind of intellectuality that her employer is paying her to acquire. In other words, the time she spend away from work may be held in the beginning of her career, but the deduction in her value should be measured at the end of her career where the gap between the wage of her and that of her husband is greatest.
On top of this comes the uncertainty that her employer undertakes by hiring a woman before a man: No one knows just how many children she will get. As an added bonus to the employer the seemingly popular national pass-time of getting divorced will present a 50% chance that the female suddenly finds herself alone – and who usually winds up with the kids again? The children that are depending on their mother being home to feed and nurture them will at the end of the day make her less dynamic from a work perspective. I will not even try to quantify these uncertainties, but merely conclude that from an employer perspective a female is a more risky and less productive investment. Then why would he pay the same for the two alternatives?
By now it should be evident that men and women do not deliver equal work and an upside of, say, 10 – 15% for the male does seem like a reasonable difference from a commercial perspective.
Of course there are ways to defy the market powers and artificially try to even the playing field. In Denmark we have created a maternity fund, which all employers pay to and which covers most of the expenses of the employer when one of the employees goes on maternity leave. This money is meant to pay for the temporary substitute – a hopelessly naïve ambition considering the time it takes for a new employee to get settled in a company. In the public sector, the state even continues its pension payments to the employee while she is producing absolutely nothing of value to the employer. Further affirmative initiatives include a mandatory 14 day paternity leave for the men, a number of recommendations to get more women in executive management and on the boards of private organizations.
This is in effect affirmative actions. The problem is that this is not a temporary solution to square a historic inequality. Not before the doctors are able to reproduce Schwarzenegger’s male pregnancy on a regular basis – and I wouldn’t hold my breath on that – can women be relieved of their destiny to ensure the reproduction of mankind – an ability that carries a high value in the minds of their gender counterparts, and which could be sold at a high premium if just the females of the world could join up in a sexist-duopoly and start charging the men for spawning their brats. The problem is of course that the competition is fierce.
The affirmative action defies the market powers and consequently is expensive to maintain. The good news is that women tend to live longer than men – if women were working for that period, then the amount of work would even the playing field and make up for the maternity leave. Does that sound like a solution? I doubt its viability, though the cynic surely would approve.