We can’t afford this obsession with the ‘gender pay gap’


Housing and Planning
The latest gender pay statistics have provoked the usual storm of nonsense. Apparently, the Government should increase regulatory burdens on businesses, at a time when our economy is seriously faltering. Along with employers, government should also ensure women at work are “nurtured”, whatever that means. Surely it is time we moved on to a proper reasoned discussion about these figures.

Contrary to the Fawcett Society spin, these figures do not show that the patriarchal oppressors are subjugating women at every opportunity they get. In fact they show a diverse picture where people make different choices and there are financial consequences for those decisions. Yes, there are more women in lower paid jobs. Yes, there are more women in part-time roles and yes, those roles tend to pay less. Yet, according to these latest figures female junior executives are now being paid an extra £602 on average compared to male executives at the same level. What does this actually show? Crucially it reveals that people make different decisions about what they want from a job and how they want to live. It also shows that people have different experiences and skills they bring to a job. It is reasonable to expect that an employer will reward people differently depending on the skills and experience they have.

One publication asserts: “The average women will be cheated out of £330,000 in her lifetime. That is 717 Vivienne Westwood tartan Bedrock bags.” Putting aside the outrageous triviality of such a statement (as if women can only understand something if there is a fashion metaphor involved), it is also simply not true. The alleged pay gap is simply not comparing like for like. People are not robots. If these statistics allow us to make any generalised statements about the trends of choices women make, it may be they show us that women do tend to take more responsibility with regard to childcare and elder care, and they do tend to opt to put family above career. These are vast stereotypes though, conflating many different people making many different choices. Even then the data tell us nothing about why different women make different choices.

Read the rest of the article on The Daily Telegraph website.

Communications Director

Ruth Porter is Communications Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs. She has worked in public policy and communications for nearly a decade. During this time she has represented UK businesses working in areas including software, energy and electronics. She studied politics and philosophy at the University of Warwick before moving to New Zealand, where she worked for the independent think tank, Maxim Institute. Ruth worked on the research team looking at a wide range of issues from social policy to tax reform. She co-authored a series of reports on education that won the Innovative Projects category of the Sir Antony Fisher International Memorial Awards and edited the book Pursuing social justice in New Zealand, which was launched by New Zealand's Governor-General. She has written for various publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Sunday Times, she also writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph website and is a frequent commentator in the British media on programmes such as Newsnight and Sky’s Boulton & Co.

2 thoughts on “We can’t afford this obsession with the ‘gender pay gap’”

  1. Posted 01/09/2011 at 19:20 | Permalink

    Agreed. It’s not a gender pay gap, it’s a mothers-vs-everybody else pay gap. Most mothers are married. Most married couples share income and expenses. So even if ‘they’ managed to even out pay, mothers would earn £5,000 more and everybody else would earn £5,000 less, so for most married couples, it would make no difference anyway. My wife’s loss is my gain and vice versa.

    Further, this is much more easily fixed with Child Benefit, if a mother gets about £2,000 tax free for each child, and we add it to her net salary, there’s no real pay difference at all between a Mum with two or three kids and ‘everybody else’.

  2. Posted 02/09/2011 at 09:22 | Permalink

    Do ‘older’ people, on average, get paid more than ‘younger’ people? If so, is there an ‘age gap’? Shouldn’t the government do something about it? One could argue that, in the end, older people will die, which, to some extent, solves the problem, if there is a problem. (Death is nature’s way of telling someone to take it easy.)

Comments are closed.