Thursday, August 28, 2008

‘Illogical lunacy’

I suppose I should have predicted that Ms Sue Dunlevy would write what amounts to a rebuttal of Wednesday’s unsurprising survey findings. This woman belongs to what I have called the pearl-necklace-wearing wing of feminism, whose members live in the parallel universe of the upper echelons of business, law, civil service and the media and are completely isolated from working mothers in nightfill or on checkouts. With the following statement, that

lower female wages force many families to assume the traditional roles of having a male breadwinner and female carer rather than equally sharing the burden of paid and unpaid work.
Ms Dunlevy agues that the preference of most working mothers to stay home is a result of the relatively low earnings of women relative to men. But in fact this is a reversal of the true causality and it ignores the fact that in Australia today, to the best of my knowledge, there is no occupation with a lower hourly rate or annual salary for women relative to men. Given this, it is strange to hear it said that

the pay rates of a female-dominated area like hairdressing and a male area like the building trades highlight the pay divide.
No, they do not. This is just a classic case of comparing apples with oranges; the proper comparison would be the hourly rate in either industry for a woman and for a man. But this would only illustrate the pay equity of the sexes.

This article was also the subject of a brief, sarcastic editorial entitled ‘Illogical lunacy’:
http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,24247309-5001030,00.html

But the only illogic here is in Ms Dunlevy’s arguments.

Reginaldvs Cantvar

7 comments:

Terra said...

Umm, actually if you compare hourly rates women are typically paid less. According to 'payscale' a hairdresser with 1 years experience or less gets $9 per hour, one with 20 years experience gets $18.35. By contrast a 1-4 yr experienced bricklayer gets $16.06 and hour, a carpenter $19.79. And after twenty years the bricklayer is up to $34.08 an hour, the carpenter on $29.88.

I do agree that what is driving many of these families is consumerism. The subtext is that the state should subsidise them to maintain them in the lifestyle to which they would like to become accustomed while not in the paid labour force, something I've always had some qualms about as a taxpayer!

Still, there is nothing wrong with women working for a few years to help save up to buy a house etc, or working because they genuinely enjoy doing so (provided it is not at the cost of their families). And some women have to work because they are widows, have been abandoned by their husbands, or their husbands are invalids.

And the figures I've quoted above do suggest that there are some genuine issues around pay inequality. The problem is that groups such Canberra's Office for Women of Status (alright so its really called Office for the Status of Women) have always been preoccupied with getting more middle class women (like themselves) onto company boards and into executive positions rather than the interests of those at the lower end of the salary scale.

Cardinal Pole said...

"Umm, actually if you compare hourly rates women are typically paid less."

But my point stands: a hairdresser (female) gets, under the minimum industrial conditions, the same pay as a barber (male). Likewise female and male brickies. The relative likelihood of women working in either trade is another question.

Cardinal Pole said...

Oh, and I like "Canberra's Office for Women of Status"! I might use that in future!

Terra said...

The issue is the reason why wages in predominantly female occupatins are so much lower than wages in predominantly male occupations. Labour economists have found that if a job shifts from being female dominated to male dominated, wages invariably rise quite substantially. Now that would be fine if the reason for the change was increased complexity of the work or something, but in fact no such dynamic can be established.

Terry said...

But terra aren't you still comparing apples with oranges? And why compare the earnings of a hairdresser with the earnings of someone who works in the building industry? Why not compare hairdresser earnings with those of a regular motor mechanic? Through "payscale" I calculated the average hourly rate of a hairdresser with ten years experience to be $16.97 and a motor mechanic with ten years experience to be $16.50 per hour. So what does all this mean?

Importantly the original story wasn't discussing hourly rates but weekly earnings, yet failed to say if there was a difference in the number of hours per week men and women were working. I seem to recall in a previous year it was revealed that although the average weekly female wage was less than the average male wage, the average full time female worker worked 10 hours per week less than the average full time male worker.

Terry said...

But terra aren't you still comparing apples with oranges? And why compare the earnings of a hairdresser with the earnings of someone who works in the building industry? Why not compare hairdresser earnings with those of a regular motor mechanic? Through "payscale" I calculated the average hourly rate of a hairdresser with ten years experience to be $16.97 and a motor mechanic with ten years experience to be $16.50 per hour. So what does all this mean?

Importantly the original story wasn't discussing hourly rates but weekly earnings, yet failed to say if there was a difference in the number of hours per week men and women were working. I seem to recall in a previous year it was revealed that although the average weekly female wage was less than the average male wage, the average full time female worker worked 10 hours per week less than the average full time male worker.

Cardinal Pole said...

"Labour economists have found that if a job shifts from being female dominated to male dominated, wages invariably rise quite substantially. Now that would be fine if the reason for the change was increased complexity of the work or something, but in fact no such dynamic can be established."

That is interesting. I would be interested to know how they went about investigating this. If it were the case that the proportion of women increased and wages decreased then this would be understandable since it would probably signify an increase in absolute numbers as well and hence an increase in industry labour supply, putting downward pressure on wages. But I am surprised that the proportion of men increased and wages increased. Which industries were they studying, and over how long a period (assuming the data were time series)?