Part-time Work and the Wage Gap

// 29 May 2005

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On 17 May, we reported on a Guardian article that highlighted the pay gap between weekly earnings (i.e the fact that women’s median income is 53% of the median income for men).

I would like to draw attention to the gap of 14.4% between women and men’s hourly earnings because it seems to me this comparison may be a more relevant figure for highlighting gender disparity. The statistics quoted in the Guardian piece include all working men and women and it is that low because lots of women work part-time.

Like Madeline Bunting, I believe society needs to change the current work ethic and develop a culture that allows people (regardless of gender) to demand greater flexibility. More employers need to recognise the value of work life balance, if we are to achieve this goal. This is a huge task and any major change will be slow but I genuinely think we would see greater productivity, as our time would be valued by the hour rather than how much of our lives had been given up for the sake of our jobs. Part of my argument is that there would be less resentment from employees and a real desire in the majority of those involved to make this system as rewarding as possible for everyone (i.e employers have much to gain from challenging the overwork culture that we currently take for granted).

I also believe there would be positive results for both sexes. Men would be freer to have lives outside work and be more involved in the home environment and employers would no longer be able to punish women (as a gender overall) because of our previous greater tendency towards such a way of life. Women in heterosexual partnerships would no longer be expected to be the main child-carers or “have it all” (i.e “do it all”) because the sharing of responsibility would be made easier for everyone. Partners used to manage on one full-time wage so why shouldn’t it now be possible to manage on two part-time ones?

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