Unequal pay for men and women for equal work is not a new issue, and Nobel laureate economist Godin offers a solution: "We can't really talk about equal pay if we don't talk about the division of domestic work."

Unequal pay for men and women for equal work is not a new issue, and discussions about gender differences in the labor market abound, and people know that only changing the variable of "gender" on the basis of the same effort can bring different results, so DEI has emerged in front of the public as a way to develop a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment, so companies have increasingly paid attention to issues such as the balance of the gender ratio of the executive class and unconscious bias in the recruitment of talents.

However, these are all challenges of the gender gap at a micro level, and if we try to put "unequal pay for equal work" in the larger context of society, we will find that under the constraints of traditional housework, even if companies are willing to provide fair opportunities for promotion, most women will still be forced to choose more flexible and relatively low-paying jobs due to the need for family care.

Goldin, a scholar who won the Nobel Prize in Economics this year, focuses on these gender differences in the labor market, revealing the main causes of gender pay gaps and labor force participation disparities in her research, saying that gender pay inequality is not so much a discrimination against women as a reflection of job flexibility and the high cost of balancing career and family.

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Godin's research focuses on the division of domestic labor as the basis for equal pay for men and women

Turning to Godin's research, how she explains the history of gender inequality by combing through the gender differences in the labor market over the past 200 years, and the main causes of the gender pay gap and the difference in the labor force participation rate between men and women (hereinafter referred to as the labor participation rate), can be roughly condensed into the following three points.

1. The process of gender equality is not linear

By analyzing 18th-century census data, Godin found that women's wages and labor ratios had not grown linearly over the past two centuries, but rather resembled a U-shaped curve.

At the beginning of the 19th century, as the agricultural society transitioned into an industrial society, the female labor force participation rate declined in view of the widespread social perception that married women were unacceptable to work outside the home.

However, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, some young or unmarried women began to work in factories, and the female labor participation rate increased, followed by the expansion of the service industry in the early 20th century, which led to an increase in the female labor participation rate, and in the late 20th century, as women got married, continued their education, and aspired to develop their careers.

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2. Equal division of domestic work is the basis for equal pay for men and women

In the past, the difference in wages between men and women may have been attributed to educational attainment and career choice. However, after Godin looked at the salaries of MBA graduates over the past 15 years, this set of explanations no longer applies.

Godin's research found that the pay gap between men and women was small in the first few years after business school, and that the pay gap between men and women becomes more pronounced ten years after graduation, further illustrating that the current pay gap is mostly between men and women in the same jobs.

It is worth noting that in almost all cases, the shift in the pay gap between men and women occurred after the birth of a woman's first child, and it can be inferred that the gender pay gap is largely attributable to the interruption of occupations and the difference in the number of hours worked per week. Therefore, to solve wage inequality, it is important to achieve a fair division of housework.

(Gaying in the same scene: Will the unequal division of housework affect the "partnership"?) Reconstructing family roles: liberating the role positioning, but also liberating yourself!

Photo by Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash

3. Pay inequality will persist as long as greedy work exists

"Greedy work," in Godin's definition, refers to high-pressure, high-paying jobs that require individuals to work long hours and sacrifice their time for the sake of their employers. Such jobs come with competitive salaries, leaving people with a difficult choice: they will eventually need a parent at home, which is often still female.

The study revealed that men were more likely than women to accept greedy work, because men generally had less flexibility than women to do as much housework and were able to work long hours, while women with family responsibilities were forced to choose more flexible, less demanding jobs to allow them to afford the housework, but such jobs tend to pay less, which also leads to wage inequality between couples.

In other words, the flip side of gender inequality is the inequality of housework, which reaffirms the link between the division of domestic work and equal pay.

Photo by HIVAN ARVIZU @soyhivan on Unsplash

Taiwan's labor participation rate is single-peak, and the proportion of women in second-degree employment is low

You may ask, this is a document that uses the United States as a research field, what can we learn from this research in Taiwan?

Before answering this question, maybe we can look at what about Taiwan? Does the gender pay gap occur in Taiwan?

According to the data of the Ministry of Labor, the average hourly wage of women in Taiwan in 2022 is only 84% of that of men, the hourly wage gap is 15.8%, and 330,000 women quit the job in order to take care of their families.

Paying attention to the labor participation rate of all age groups, we can see that the labor participation rate of women aged 25 to 39 in Taiwan is nearly eighty percent, which is actually higher than the figures of 75.5%, 86.9%, and 76.8% in major countries such as Japan, South Korea, and the United States, but as they get older, the situation slowly flips around, and the labor participation rate of women in Taiwan gradually falls below 8 percent, and when they reach the age of 55 to 59, there is only 45.4%, which is far less than the United States, South Korea, and 7 percent.

(Guess what you want to see: 30-year-old resignation for childcare, 50-year-old resignation to take care of in-laws!) The labor participation rate of Taiwanese women is lower than that of the United States, Japan and South Korea)

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In addition to the gap in the labor participation rate, although the labor participation rate of women in other countries will also decline due to taking care of the family, it will return to the labor market in a few years, making the female labor participation rate show a "double peak", while Taiwan is a "single peak", after reaching a peak at the age of 25 to 29, it will decline all the way, and the decline trend is steeper than that of other countries.

From the survey of the Comptroller and Auditor's Office, it can be found that behind these figures, those who return to the family are nothing more than housework, and the proportion of women is higher than that of men, highlighting that even though women are quite common in the workplace, the responsibility of the main body still mostly falls on women, and it has become the norm to make the choice of leaving the field after weighing.

However, the current design logic of Taiwan's labor insurance and labor insurance retirement benefit system is to presuppose that workers will continue to work until retirement after entering the workplace, and do not consider the possibility of interruption of employment due to family care factors, so the amount of retirement benefits depends on two key variables: "salary" and "seniority".

Under such conditions, if a woman leaves the workplace in the middle of the job, even if she returns to the workplace for the second time, the accumulation of seniority will still be interrupted, and the level of benefits received from public pension insurance will be lower than that of men, and the rights and interests of old-age retirement security will be impaired.

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What can we do in the face of wage inequality?

So far, we have seen how the division of housework affects women's labor participation rate, and seen the occurrence of wage inequality in real life behind the figures, you may be curious, so what should you do in the face of similar situations in the future?

If you look at the Nordic countries, you will find that the coexistence of high fertility rates and high female labor participation rates is nothing more than generous maternity benefits, flexible labor markets, and the implementation of equal domestic labor, so that it is not difficult for women to return to the labor market.

This phenomenon echoes Godin's argument in her research, which argues that "if we don't talk about the division of domestic work, we can't really talk about equal pay, and we will never achieve gender equality."

Therefore, the equality of women in the family, so that both men and women can share the responsibility of housework, childcare, and elders, can help women have better opportunities to achieve equality at work, and on this basis, increasing government funding for child care will help narrow the gender pay gap.

However, government intervention alone will not solve the pay gap, and companies should also be a helper to lift gender stereotypes and adopt more flexible working models such as remote and hybrid work, which can inject some hope into the goal of pay equity, and one day true fairness for dual-wage couples will no longer be frustratingly elusive.

Photo by Stephanie Mitchell on Harvard University