A while back I wrote the first post for a subject I’ve been learning more and more about in this sustainability journey: intersectional feminism. Ever since I know what it is, I call myself a feminist. I then wrote about what intersectional feminism is. People seem to never really know what it is when I talk to them (and now, I can refer to this post). And even more often, people seem to not see why intersectional feminism is necessary. That’s why I am writing posts on every problem we have when it comes to why feminism is necessary. Today I am starting! Let’s talk about: the pay gap.
The Pay Gap
There is a pay gap when it comes to gender. Meaning that women earn less money per hour than men* do. Both do the exact same work and work the same amount of time. However, women earn less money. Isn’t that crazy? The implications of just this fact are immense. This phenomenon is a global problem, but today I am using numbers from The Netherlands. I think these numbers can help you grasp how serious this problem is. On a yearly average women in The Netherlands earn 38% less euros than men do. That is the net money people receive from salary on their bank account. That’s a huuuge difference and this also causes about half of the Dutch women to be financially dependent. When you’re financially dependent, you earn less than a living wage. This 38% that I just mentioned is not corrected for the amount of hours, it’s the net salary. Meaning, that women do less paid work in The Netherlands. When looking at both paid and unpaid work, women work more than men do. So, women do more work in general, but less paid work than men do, leaving them off with less money. This division of paid and unpaid work is something for other posts.
Okay, so the 38% does not account for the paid working hours. However, when the pay gap is corrected for by the amount of hours worked, the pay gap is still 14%! Women in The Netherlands earn 14% less per hour than men do. As I said, the same amount of time, the same work, 14% less salary. Women basically work for free for almost 2 months of each year! And that’s besides the unpaid work they already do.
The implications of this inequality are immense. I think the fact that this situation is just unfair is already enough to change this. But let me just mention some implications. Being financially dependent in the first place can have serious consequences. It’s difficult to find housing, buy healthy food and get by in general. Even when you get extra allowances from the government to get by, it’s still a very low income. Poor people are usually women, unfortunately. Also, a lot of women are financially dependent on their partner. That can be dangerous. Imagine being in an abuse relationship and you can’t leave because you can’t afford another to. 40% of relationships end these days and so if you’re not financially independent this can have serious implications. This is not just the case for right now, but also in the future. If you have less salary, you built less pension. Money simply gives you freedom and that’s why it’s good to have it. This all goes together with the fact that women work more hours in total (when looking at both paid and unpaid work). So, we do most of the work, but we get paid the least. And since women do most of the unpaid work, they are the ones with the worries too. Heavy burden, little pay.
What is not a problem but is thought of as a problem: women don’t ask for a higher salary. This is simply not true. Women ask just as much for a raise as men do, but they get it less often than men do. They are valued less somehow because of double standards (something for next time).
The fact that women work less paid hours in general is something for another time. That is a cause of the pay gap and important, yes. But in the 14% number this is already corrected for. So why is there still a pay gap? One reason is that the sectors in which women usually work generally pay less. This is honestly very weird since women usually do vital work in health care, education, food industry or the cultural sector. There is a trend in this, in whichever sector the amount of female employees increases, pay decreases. Women don’t choose lower-paying jobs. It’s just that when the amount of women increases in a sector, the pay decreases. We don’t really know why this happens, but we think that the main reason is undervaluation of work done by women. Back in the days, teachers were mostly men and it was a highly valued profession. Right now, it is mostly done by women and the pay is very little. But even if we correct for this fact, that women usually work in lower paying sectors (even though I think this should not be corrected for), we still end up with a pay gap of 6%. Seems like this is not that much, but this is almost a month salary a year!
How to Fix This
There are many things we can do. The most important thing we can do is divide the unpaid work equally. Right now, women take care of most of the household, the children, the elderly, the family, etc. We should divide the burden equally. And that starts with the children. When a child is born, the women usually takes care of the children at first. That’s because they get a 4 month leave and partners only get 5 weeks (since 2020, before that it was about 2 days) in The Netherlands. Duh, then of course the women will take care of the child. This should be changed and both parents should have an equal leave. Also, we should pay for unpaid work. Right now there’s a huge gap in pay because women do a lot of unpaid work. We can fix this by paying for the work that is now not paid for. We should change how our economy works, since the system was invented by men.
The phenomenon of women taking care of the children is reinforced because women get paid less. Since they get paid less, they are usually the one who decrease their working hours while their partner do not. This is a reinforcing loop. Since women are the ones with the womb, they are also discriminated at work. Their contracts won’t be prolonged because they’re pregnant, to name an example. Furthermore, the tax system in The Netherlands is outdated. They are designed for the men to work full-time and the women part-time. That’s why usually there is no financial incentive for women to go and work more. Because of the tax system, it does not give them any financial gain. It’s 2021! We should change this. There are also social norms in play. We expect women to take care of the child and to decrease their working hours once they have a child. If men do the same thing, we think it’s weird. My own mom experienced this a lot when I was born and raised.
I would also suggest that blind job applications are a solution. Men are usually in better positions and that has a lot of reasons (mostly prejudice, but that’s something for another post). If the application for a job is blind, so no gender, age or name showing, women can’t be discriminated against. This is also a solution for other types of discrimination, like racism. Research has shown that blind job applications can be a good solution. In The Netherlands there is one employment agency already doing this, it’s called Trickle.
Also, as I said, once the amount of women which work in a sector increases, the pay decreases. We can change this by assigning how heavy the work-load is in specific professions (like a teacher or a nurse). We can then objectively pay the people in that profession according to how heavy the work-load is. And so, jobs in health care and education will be paid higher, since they are the so-called heavy jobs. This is already done in New Zealand. Maybe something to look into as well!
*This is a very binary post. I am very sorry for this. I wrote it this way because of the research done which is usually binary. If you have any suggestions on how to adjust this post, let me know.