Ageing and equality: a curious relationship

Another really interesting post from Rick at Flip Chart Fairy Tales, this time on the impact of gender equity on demographics worldwide.  Rick cites an important study by Anderson and Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania.  The basic point is that in countries where women go to work but there is no accompanying social change to reduce their domestic commitments, the birth rate falls.

I’ve pointed before to Japan and Korea as countries where the Paula Principle applies particularly strongly, and it’s no surprise to find they have dramatically ageing populations:  their highly educated women are forced to choose between children and careers, and even if they choose to carry on working the odds are very much against them achieving anything like the levels of their male colleagues.

The unsurprising contrast is with Scandinavian countries where birth rates have turned upwards, as policies and culture makes it easier to combine work and family.  By contrast, the Southern European countries see their populations ageing fast.  Catholic values apparently can’t persuade women to abandon their wish to work.

It takes a long time for cultural change of this kind to happen, politically and domestically.  Add to that the time it then takes for any demographic upward shift – a lot longer than nine months.  And it’s not exactly a smooth glide.   The UK is in with the other Northern European countries in having a slower ageing rate (of its population – there’s no magical solution to individual ageing).   This is linked to greater gender equality.

Problem solved then?  Not according to  the latest CMI report on pay equality.  It has a neat infographic on the persistent gap, including how many days women work ‘for free’.  The overall gender pay gap is narrower than it has ever been.   But the CMI study – a large one, covering 72000 people –  shows very strikingly how much  the pay gap is an issue of age.

“The survey data also reveals that the pay gap becomes wider as women grow older. Women aged 26-35 are paid 6% less than their male colleagues, rising to 20% for women aged 36-45. The gap increases to 35% for women aged 46-60, equivalent to working 681 hours for free compared to their male colleagues. For women and men in their 60s the pay gap expands to 38%.”

So:  greater gender equality stops our population from ageing;  but the gender pay gap increases with age. Something odd there.

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