Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ms Dunlevy on disparities in earnings by gender

About this time last year Ms Sue Dunlevy, a columnist for the Sydney Daily Telegraph, was raging against disparities between men’s and women’s earnings (I use the more precise term “earnings” rather than Ms Dunlevy’s preferred term “wages” since, as far as I know, there is not a single industry in Australia in which men and women doing equal work don’t receive an equal wage), and it seems that Ms Dunlevy has maintained the rage, or at least the rage has returned in time for the annual “Equal Pay Day” which happens about this time each year, marking the end of the extra period of time women need to work in order to earn as much as men do, on average, during the financial year, which ends on June 30. Ms Dunlevy begins her article thus:

IF you needed another reason to hate bankers and insurers, this is it. The pay gap between men and women in those professions is 28 per cent - the highest in the nation and it’s still growing.
But unlike Ms Dunlevy I wish to be clear from the outset: women in this industry, as in most industries, earn less on average than their male counterparts because they work fewer hours on average than men do. A news report in The Sydney Morning Herald acknowledged this on Saturday (albeit tucked away two-thirds of the way into the article):

David Bell, chief executive of the Australian Bankers Association, said 61 per cent of staff in the finance industry were women, and the gender difference in earnings was ''a product of hours worked and skills''.

"The data shows that 26 per cent of females in the finance industry work part time compared with 4 per cent for males," he said.
Nowhere in her opinion piece does Ms Dunlevy acknowledge this.

Shortly after her opening barrage on the banking and insurance industries, Ms Dunlevy moves onto another target:

The Fair Pay Commissioner Professor Ian Harper deserves to be at least a joint recipient of the 2009 pay inequality shame award.

His decision to deny workers on the minimum wage a pay rise this year is a huge setback for women workers.

That’s because more women than men rely on the minimum wage. The ACTU says almost a third of women earn less than the federal minimum wage and more than a quarter of women working in the private sector have their pay determined by awards, which are dependent on minimum wage decisions.

That compares to 16 per cent of men.
But what does Ms Dunlevy expect from Prof. Harper? Does she expect him to take into account the preponderance of woman in the ranks of the lowest paid when he sets the minimum wage? Because that would be outright sexism, wouldn’t it?

Ms Dunlevy goes on to examine the causes of the rise in earnings inequality. She gives one of them as follows:

Then there is the problem that female employment is concentrated in the services sector in childcare, nursing, teaching, jobs which are undervalued by our society and paid less.

Explain to me why a female hairdressing apprentice earns $80 a week less than a builder’s apprentice, even though they have similar skill sets.
Well, let’s see: because the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is, as they say, two weeks, whereas the difference between a well-constructed building and a badly-constructed building can be the difference between life and death? Because one can survive without a haircut, but one can’t survive without adequate shelter? Because the exertion and risk involved in trimming people’s hair in air-conditioned salons is considerably less than that which is involved in lugging heavy equipment around a hazardous building site? I liked some of the responses at Ms Dunlevy’s blog:

… I know a couple of apprentices in the building industry. I’m sure they will be happy to have a go at your hair. Frankly I don’t want the girl down at thelocal salon building my house for me either. […]
Sahara of Sydney (Reply)
Fri 21 Aug 09 (06:41am)

… Try this one: The Annual Compendium of Workers’ Compensation Statistics 2006-2007 report tells us that of 236 workplace fatalities, 50, or just over 21% of workplace fatalities occurred in the construction industry.

Secondly, construction workers do a great deal of their work exposed to the heat, cold and wind of the elements in an environment that is dirty and unpleasant. A stark contrast to the conditions enjoyed in the majority of the service sector.

I find it fascinating that feminists consider the danger and discomfort associated with working in the construction industry to have no value whatsoever. …
scott gilbert of Petersham (Reply)
Sat 22 Aug 09 (12:08am)

And as one of my commenters pointed out in the combox at a post of mine on this topic this time last year, Ms Dunlevy’s choice of a comparison between hairdressing apprentices and builders’ apprentices is arbitrary: mechanics’ apprentices, for instance, do earn about the same wage as an hairdressing apprentice.

Ms Dunlevy concludes with the following attempt at humour:

Meanwhile, there could be a way to turn this situation around. While we’re waiting for the end of pay inequality, women should use it to their advantage.

Think of things this way. If women are worth 28 per cent less than men, I’m off to the bank to demand a 28 per cent gender discount on my mortgage and insurance rates because of my sex. It seems only fair, doesn’t it?
But the failure of one market (which I’ll grant for the sake of letting Ms Dunlevy try out her intended punchline) doesn’t necessarily imply the failure of another market, so it’s a pretty lame joke.

Stay tuned for next year’s installment in Ms Dunlevy’s gender pay war, I suppose.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Stephen, King, Confessor, A.D. 2009


Anonymous said...

This woman is a menace and if not a liar, then a deceiver. Why is she permitted to write her nonsense?

Cardinal Pole said...

"This woman is a menace and if not a liar, then a deceiver."

Remember her strange recent piece on what I jokingly called 'a Catholic conspiracy to suppress women's wages'?

Naturally she's pro-abortion too:

(In the article she fails to come right out and say so, but it's pretty clear from her one-sided use of sources (the Greens, a "New community lobby group" called "Pro Choice NSW"), plus her well-known feminism, where she stands.)

"Why is she permitted to write her nonsense?"

She belongs to the Sisterhood.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I owe this chick an apology b/c I confused her with The Age's Catherine Deveny.

The question, somewhat rhetorical, "Why is she permitted to write her nonsense?" was largely in light of Ms Deveny's recent anti-Catholic rants, which as I say is an error on my part.

Yes, Sue Dunlevy is a Feminist and therefore eminently publishable.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lord! I have just read your post on her union piece!


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