Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Suffrage Day

Today, September 19th, is Suffrage Day. On this day in 1893, women won the right to vote in New Zealand Parliamentary elections. It is thus a landmark day for equality, both in New Zealand and globally. But while its a day for celebration, as Lianne Dalziel reminds us, there is still a long way to go. As the graph below shows, women are paid less than men at every age group:

(Source: Table Builder: Earnings by ethnicity, sex and age groups of those in paid employment. A full spreadsheet of the data is here)

The traditional explanation for this is that women pursue different occupations from men (which are, coincidentally, lower paid), and that their wages are lowered by different work patterns such as working part-time and taking time off to have children. But when you look at young workers (who have typically not paid the "baby penalty") and hourly wage rates (to correct for part-time work), you are confronted with the stark fact that women are paid less then men in almost all occupations, and sometimes appreciably so:

Only in the trades are women paid as much as or more than men, presumably because the few who go into those professions are unwilling to take any shit.

It's all the more appalling because this is among young people, born since the feminist revolution and equality legislation of the 70's and 80's, where you'd expect gender differences to be lowest. But instead we see sectors where women clearly face systematic discrimination. And while the gap is small (less than 3%) for 80% of the young female workforce, you have to ask in this day and age why it exists at all.