Race to the bottom

I restarted the blog so I could comment on the election, but I’ve found it too depressing to do much. The major parties are engaged in a race to the bottom in every respect, announcing silly focus-group-driven policies and appealing to the worst instincts of the electorate. The mass media have encouraged this, obsessing over trivial scandals and personality issues and disregarding our real economic and social problems. The only serious hope for progress on policy is the Greens but they remain marginalised. I’ll try to offer some discussion of the Greens policies on various issues but at this point, I think, there is little reason to follow the main campaign.

84 thoughts on “Race to the bottom

  1. Jim Rose – if you are wondering what happened post 1998 (the John Howard years). The female statistics were not able to be ascertained as the ATO ceased reporting certain female statistics.

    This is convenient to governments who are not committed to reducing gender inequalities.

    So JR your comment that the “gender gap” has fallen since the 1970s isnt verifiable because you have no statistics at all to back such a claim. Hence I will put it straight into the “mythology” basket.

    The ATO may have resumed reporting certain female statistics now – I dont know. But “missing” female statistics are nothing new in history either.

    Apparently no females ever worked in the goldfields in the 1850s/60s.

  2. @Alice
    You say that “So JR your comment that the “gender gap” has fallen since the 1970s isnt verifiable because you have no statistics at all to back such a claim.”

    My statistics shwoing a major increase in women’s share of total income start at the end of the 1970s – 1982 to be precise. Here is more:

    • 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 1998: “In 1954 women made up 23% of those employed. By 1998 their share had increased to 43%. Much of the increase has come from women with families working in part-time jobs.”

    • 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 1995: “Much of the difference between men’s and women’s earnings can be explained by the different hours that they work and the sorts of jobs that they do.”

    • 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 2001: In 1982, 33% of all income was received by women. By 1999-2000, this had increased to 38%. This growth was mainly the result of the increase in the proportion of women working.

    It is possible that the gender wage gap widened in the 1970s in the death throws of the social democratic good old days. Apparently, the Menzies era is the social democratic dreamtime.

    Indeed, the gender wage gap did widen in, for example, the USA from 1950 to the end of the 1970s after 60 years of solid progress – there is a large literature on this.

    The gender wage gap in the USA started closing again rapidly from the start of the 1980s with the onset of the darkest years of neoliberalism. If the gap had continued to widened, I am sure that Reagan would have been blamed exclusively.

    The reason for the widening of the U.S gender wage gap in the decades up to 1980 is large numbers of women entering or re-entering the work force with relative little work experience so they started in entry level jobs with lower pay. This compositional effect reduced the average wage of women.

    The gender wage gap started to close again and rapidly in the 1980s because of the much greater average work experience of working women and the greater educational qualifications of female first-time entrants.

    The wage gap is better explained by the asymmetric marriage premium. Getting married helps men’s income and makes women worse of because of career interruptions and child rearing. Women tend to anticipate this in the educational, occupational and job choices to mitigate the effects.

  3. Jr

    You cannot express the gender gap in terms of absolute increases in women’s physical workforce participation as you have with your 4102.0 stats above. The gender income gap must necessarily be expressed in percentage terms which take into account percentage increases in female workforce participation over time as I provided you at post 25.

    Of course we would expect women’s percentage increases in total share of income to accompany their percentage physical workforce participation increases.

    This is not a gender gap.

    A gender gap exists when womens physical participation percentage climbs but it still exceeds the percentage climb in their share of income…as I provided you with above for aggregate income reported to the ATO. One important aspect of those numbers is the sheer immensity of the data source (all reported ATO individual taxpayers annually). The ABS stats are based on a much smaller surveyed sample size extrapolated for a start. However, Im sure the ABS has superior gender gaps statistics available to you than those you refer to above.

    The difference cannot be explained by the work they do alone. Yes women work more part time and lower paid jobs but so do many young people. However, if it were the case that differences in work patterns explain all – then the gender gap for full time female workers in Australia is even higher as you yourself noted at 17.5%.

    The key point I make is that the gender gap as referred to in my post above has not decreased since the 1970s . Its still a mans world and women should be very careful who they give their votes to. Women’s issues have very much fallen from the policy radar since the 1970s and 1980s as well. I would even suggest under John Howards conservative leadership, women’s concerns actually took a major retrograde step but no major advances came out of the Hawke / Keating years either. I see nothing encouraging in current conservative party politics. Childcare costs are prohibitive, childraising time is ignored and women suffer major career interruptions as is obvious by the rather large gender superannuation gap.

  4. @Alice
    Do women earn what men earn in a similar job with similar education and experience? What is your source?

    Is there a gender wage gap between unmarried women and unmarried men? Is it as large as between married men and married women?

    Do more men than women graduate from university these days?

    Marriage and motherhood can explain a large portion of the gender pay gap.

    There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.

    For example, comparing the U.S. wage gap between women and men ages 35-43 who have never married and never had a child, there is a small observed gap in favor of women, which becomes insignificant after accounting for differences in skills and job and workplace characteristics. See 2005 NBER working paper “What Do Wage Differentials Tell Us about Labor Market Discrimination?” by June O’Neill.

    How can these unmarried women be earning more than unmarried men in a man’s world, as you claimed it is.

  5. @Jim Rose
    Seems to me the gap you claim became “insignificant” JR. Perhaps one demographic has realised equality. Overall there is still a long way to go….unmarrieds who dont have children…. yet.

    I mentioned this as a major factor in the gender gap. There is no recognition for the national service that is the activity of raising children (per Menzies own words). Its not a “lifestyle choice”. Its not a “luxury”. Its not choosing a “home entertainment system”. Its a necessity for governments and business and the economy.

    If we cant afford the decision to pair and have children then things are truly grim. One child is fine, given overpopulation IMHO, but a generation with “none” may well prove a disaster to all those in retirement.

    Balance is the business as usual.

  6. Alice, ABS figures released on 20 May 2010 show that the gender pay gap has now widened to 18%.

  7. Yes well Moshie – we have to put up with the mythologists in here dont we?
    I dont think the gender gap is really on any leader’s mind in this country – same as it ever was – we need to move to Sweden for that.

    Should be but it isnt….Its been downplayed for two decades and retrograded by JH ( like living in the fifties but without a union for protection of your man). In fact the historical record of any advance on gender inequalities is pretty abysmal in Australia. Its a blokey sort of country. Even the office for the status of women became dominated by Julie Bishop types (office for women of status). Nice liberal girls who do what they are told and think what they are told.

    Take the minimum wage legislation way back at the turn of the century. In one case a woman was deemed to be worth “two thirds of a man” in a particular occupation (how many occupations was that the case?). How long did that last?

    Only about 50 years. Every time they increased the minimum wage – the poor woman got two thirds of the increase…..

    She was better off in the late 1800s with a small core of domestic helpers instead of the 1960s going off to work with the wondrous labour saving devices (vacuum cleaners and washing machines instead of domestic help) supposedly to help the domestic goddess…

    Now – no domestic help, labour saving devices aplenty but someone still has to push, load or unload them and work in an office till 6pm as well as do the pick up / drop off run for the kids (alas few labour saving devices will auto run the kids around).

    Its no picnic and its income impairing into the long run, but its one thats completely off the policy radar. Have not heard sight nor sign of female gender gap / superannuation gap concerns in this election campaign despite the spectacular crash of Eddy Groves along with a lot of families work stability no doubt.

  8. Alice, even worse is the superannuation gender gap whereby in 2007 the average superannuation balance for men was $87,589 compared to $52,272 for women.

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