Saturday, February 28, 2015

The "wage gap"

You know the old saying that if a lie is repeated enough times, it becomes the truth? Well, it seems to me that the concept of the mythical "wage gap" appears to be such a thing.

The "wage gap" seems to be one of the core tenets of feminism, especially in the United States (but naturally it has been creeping into other countries over the years as well). It's the claim that women are, on average, paid less for the exact same job than men. In the United States in particular, the exact number of "77 cents for each men's dollar" is repeated like a mantra.

This concept has been repeated so much, and is so pervasive, that almost everybody believes it without question. Even the president of the United States himself believes it and has commented on it in his speeches.

Since that "77 cents" figure is supposed to be an average, and since demonstrably there are many companies that do not have that policy, that should mean that there are companies that pay significantly less to women than to men (so that we can arrive to that average.)

This is something that ought to be quite easy to prove with actual tangible evidence. Evidence of the sort of "company X pays $10/hour to male employees and $5/hour to female employees for the exact same job, and here are the documents to prove it, including job contracts and salary receipts". Yet this kind of hard evidence seems suspiciously lacking.

(I'm not saying that there exists no such company at all, even inside the United States. I'm certain that there exist some redneck-style small companies that do exactly that. However, for the average to be "77 cents for the dollar", such companies have to be everywhere. Over half of all the existing companies in the United States ought to have such policies for us to arrive at such an average, given that we know for a fact that there are many companies with no such policies. Companies that pay less should be everywhere and be very easy to point out.)

The wage gap claims are seldom based on hourly wages for the exact same job in the exact same company. So what are they based on?

What they do is that they look how much salary money is paid within an industry sector in total during a year to all male employees and all female employees, and see that this total amount of money paid to women is less than the total amount paid to men. They then divide the amounts with the number of employees of each gender, and arrive at such a number as 77% total money goes to women compared to the money that goes to men. They then jump to the conclusion that companies are paying lower wages to women than to men.

The flaw in this ought to be quite clear. The question arises: Are the women doing as many hours (in the exact same job) during a year than men? In other words, are the hourly wages really lower for women, or is it a question that women, on average, make less hours of work over a year than men?

(This is, in fact, the most common cause for the discrepancy. It can be demonstrated that on average women do indeed do less hours over the course of a year in most jobs than men. They do not work as much over hours, they take more leaves of absence, and so on.)

There are other flaws in these numbers as well. Many of the studies compare similar jobs, rather than exact same jobs. For example they calculate that female medical doctors are paid on average less money than male medical doctors. Again this ought to be easy to prove with actual hard evidence in the form of job contracts and salary receipts... yet once again this evidence seems suspiciously lacking. What's actually happening is that more women are working in less-paying positions such as pediatricians and more men are working in higher-paying positions such as surgeons. (There is a difference in pay between different branches of medicine, but it's not based on gender but on your expertise.)

Many such studies will object that they do take such factors into account and still come with the result that women are paid less for the exact same job. Yet if you dig deep enough, you will invariably find out that there's some factor they did not take into account after all, and thus their study is not actually measuring real hourly wages for the exact same job.

Again, if there really were such a prevalent wage gap, it ought to be very easy to prove with tons and tons of actual documents of actual individual people working for actual individual companies, rather than alluding to vague calculations based on averages.

There's also this point: Most companies are greedy. Companies exist to make money. Most companies are not charity organizations. The less money they could pay to employees, the better, because that means that the company gains more money that it doesn't have to give away.

Given that this is a quite well established fact, and if the wage gap were true, then wouldn't the vast majority of employees be women? After all, if women can be paid less salary than men, then why would companies hire men, who need to be paid more? Wouldn't they choose to hire the people who can be paid less, thus making more profits for the company?

The real reason why the "wage gap" is one of the core tenets of feminism is that it gives feminists a reason for their existence. It gives them ammunition to throw at their critics, an argument for why feminism is still so much needed in our society. It's an argument they use both for themselves, and to try to convince non-feminists.
The "wage gap" is one of the most successful pieces of deceitful propaganda that feminism has ever come up with. Almost everybody believes it to be true, even though actual hard evidence is lacking.

(To be fair, though, there's one situation where there may be a real gap. You see, there are some companies that do not have fixed salaries. Instead, when they are hiring people, they negotiate a salary with the potential employee. In other words, the employer asks the potential employee how much salary they would like, and there will be essentially a salary negotiation, with the employer essentially trying to "sell" the job to the employee, who is trying to "buy" it, and there's essentially a form of haggling. Thus different employees may have different salaries for the exact same positions, simply because they couldn't haggle well enough.

It may be that women on average may feel more intimidated in these situations, or for other reasons by less able to demand a higher salary, ie. may not be as good at "haggling", in which case women on average in this company may be genuinely paid less than men for the exact same job with the exact same work hours. However, to call this sexism one would need to point out how the company itself is discriminating against women in particular, rather than simply "discriminating" against people who are willing to do the job for less salary. If women on average are less confident at this kind of haggling, that's not the fault of the company.

Not that I agree with this kind of practice. I think this kind of "salary haggling" is morally questionable, regardless of gender or any other traits, and companies should not do that. But I don't think it should be attributed to sexism in particular.)

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