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February 27, 2006 || 3:20 pm
Equal pay

Another day, another damning report with no surprises: a 17% average wage gap between men and women. In fact, men will earn £2.6m over their lifetimes (averaging around £57,000 p.a. if working from 20 to 65) as opposed to women earning £1m (an average of £22,000). Nice.

The depressing thing is that if you go back six years, you get an almost identical report. Nothing changes. And still, we don't get progress on equal paternity and maternity leave. In fact, it seems that the government is going to double women's right to maternity leave - to a year in 2009 - without increasing paternity leave at all. It will stay at two weeks, with the potential for six months unpaid leave only if the mother has returned to work.

Regular readers will know my views on this. It is blatant and institutional discrimination. While we face a bad 'baby gap' that threatens our future economic health, and while other civilised countries find that having decent paternity leave reaps real benefits, and a survey found that 80% of UK dads would be happy to care for their babies if only they had the chance, what is our government doing by sanctioning Victorian views on the place of women?

The fact is, as I bang on about time and time again, the pay gap will only get better if men and women are treated equally when they have kids. It should be equally 'risky' for an employer to take on a man approaching child-bearing age as it is to take on a woman. Then they will get equal chances of promotion and responsibility. All the other stuff - equal pay reviews, better careers advice, etc is important but the studies show time and time again that the big pay gap comes with kids and that is absolutely unacceptable.

I think maybe it's time for another campaign...Give us twelve months maternity leave that can be split between the parents as the parents wish. You don't have to force the man to take leave - but you shouldn't force the woman to either. Then let the arguments start erupting inside all those homes, as women discover what 'traditional' men they have married...and if one still finds that all the men go back to work while the women stay at home, well, blame the sisterhood for not having the guts to fight it out. But at least level the playing field first.

2 comments

2 Comments:

I would like to be a "house husband".

I guess, if I ever managed to migrate to full time writing, then it is one of the only jobs flexible enough to accomadate working and family.

The mixed use paternity/maternity leave has worked quite well in Scandinavia although business does complain. More men are taking paternity even in UK - if anecdotal evidence in the city is anything to go by.

Do you agree with Polly Toynbee, that a lot of it is because traditional "women's work" is undervalued?

Keeping my flat tidy is certainly a job which is pretty full time ! And hence it never is... although maybe that's just messy me...

By Anonymous Ben, at 1:29 pm  

Traditional women's work is undervalued and definitely part of the problem. and I don't think that equal paternity leave will solve it all overnight. It's just extraordinary to me that we can enshrine unequal rights/responsibilities within our laws. You would think that there would be something in the EU human rights/equality legislation that would disallow that. I think that the first step would be equality of responsibility and rights. Although it wouldn't iron out the fact that, in the negotiation between man and woman, most women would probably end up still taking more leave because they get paid worse so its less economical for them to be the ones going back to work, it would be a start. And I think there must be an easier way for people to instigate an equal pay/equal rights action than the current system. To have government guidelines that value jobs against each other and produce suggested pay scales would be a start.

I would also rather like to be a house wife and I would also like to migrate to full time writing (at least that's what I sometimes dream of).

By Blogger HL, at 2:36 pm  

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