Friday, July 28, 2006

Equal Pay for Equality Bureaucrats

"Equal pay for equal work" has been one of those slogans that's been around for a while. Women on average make less than men (72% is the number usually cited, which I don't doubt). According to various women's groups, there must be discrimination out there, and no other explanation could really be feasible.

There's an organization that promotes it. On its Q&A page, we find out that the whole equal pay for equal work concept is really equal pay for jobs that some government entity thinks require the same skill level, but aren't really equal, but they're equivalent:

The major provision of the Fair Pay Act prohibits wage discrimination based on sex, race, or national origin among employees for work in "equivalent jobs." Equivalent jobs are those whose composite of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions are equivalent in value, even if the jobs are dissimilar. The Act is a natural extension of the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which is limited to sex-based discrimination in the same jobs. For enforcement purposes, the Fair Pay Act allows class action lawsuits to be filed and provides for compensatory and punitive damages. It also fills the information gap for workers by requiring some employers to disclose to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) general job classifications and their pay statistics (although it maintains individual confidentiality). The bill prohibits a company from lowering any employee's wage rate in order to implement fair pay.

Later, it goes on to say:

Women are still often steered into the more traditional female occupations - such as nurse, teacher, clerical worker, or retail sales clerk. This has perpetuated sex-based occupational segregation, which is beyond the reach of the Equal Pay Act alone. Requiring equal pay for workers in equivalent jobs, even when the work performed is different, is the surest way of eliminating the enduring biases against jobs held predominantly by women and people of color.

So here we are going to need a government agency to determine which jobs are equivalent even if the work performed is different. The site goes on to say that employers would set wages, but that a non-discriminatory system would be used to set wages. It also says that "Fair Play can lead to greater productivity by raising morale among workers who expect to receive fair pay for their work." I guess my question is, if something is going to lead to more productive employees without really costing anything, why wouldn't the companies implement the policies that are being advocated? Why do we need to require a government bureaucracy to do this? Companies are in the business of maximizing their profits.

An example the page gives of equivalent jobs is registered nursing assistants and compared with plumbers. While the jobs may have the same basic skill level (although I'm not really sure), they aren't the same. How the hell are they even similar? I certainly wouldn't want a nursing assistant to come over if my toilet was all stopped up, and I wouldn't want to see a plumber if my intenstines were all stopped up and I couldn't use the toilet (although in both cases, the end result would be an empty septic tank).

Right now, if there's a shortage of plumbers, you raise the wages offered, and you'll get more plumbers. If there's a shortage of nursing assistants, raise their wages, and you'll find enough nursing assistants. Might not be instantaneous (people have to study to be these things, or move to the area, or quit what they are doing), but it'll happen. But if you have a shortage of plumbers and you raise the nursing assistant's salaries, that's not going to help me find a guy to fix my toilet.

The top 10 reasons for pay inequity are provided. One of the points is that market forces aren't eliminating discrimination, because pay levels are different. Say what? Warren Farrel in Forbes had a good statement on this:

When I was on the board of directors for the National Organization for Women in New York City during the 1970s, I led protests against the pay gap. I wore a "59 Cents" pin to reflect my objection to the discrimination I felt was the cause of women earning only 59 cents to each dollar earned by men. Now, since I'm a husband and father, discrimination against women isn't just political, it's personal.

But one question haunted me through the years: If an employer has to pay a man one dollar for the same work a woman would do for 59 cents, why would anyone hire a man? If women do produce more for less, I thought, women who own their own businesses should earn more than male business owners. So I checked. I found that women entrepreneurs earn 50% less than their male counterparts.

He goes on to say that women and men make different choices, and these lead to men valuing money over flexibility, fulfillment, autonomy and safety, while for women, money ranked lower. (Although this goes against the liberal belief that men and women are exactly the same except in anatomy]. He also wrote a book explaining why men earn more.

Now, this pay equity thing may just be some looney-toon website by some marginal organization, and their bill probably has essentially no chance of passing. However, here in Connecticut, John deStefano is running for governor, and this is one of his Campaign Themes.

His proposal would "establish within one year a set of standards for evaluating pay equity in municipalities and in businesses and industries employing more than 50 people." (What does businesses and industries mean? Does he mean businesses and organizations or businesses and partners?)

Fortunately for us, deStefano doesn't look like a winner on election day. And he's going to get beaten by a woman. What's an equivalent job to governor? CEO? The governor probably makes less. I'd tell her she should become a CEO.

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