Some kind of prize to the Resolution Foundation for the cover of their recent report on how to boost low wages; I say that even though the boosted person looks very male to me, so maybe doesn’t fit best with the Paula Principle. In fact as Susan Harkness’ piece on women’s wages makes clear, women’s wages have dropped by less than men’s, thus closing the gender gap but in a way that doesn’t exactly call for hurrahs.
Harkness argues that this convergence is partly due to the fact that it’s more the male-dominated employment sectors that have borne the brunt of the recession and subsequent wage squeeze. She also points our, crucially, that wages for the under-30s have now more or less converged, but the diverge rapidly with age.
The chart below, from her chapter, shows how the importance of women’s wages within a household varies across the earnings spectrum. It’s not surprising, but none the less important, that women’s earnings are so much more important for poorer households.
When it comes to recommendations, Harkness rightly wants opportunities for flexible working. She argues for promoting more full-time jobs for women, on the basis of experience from Sweden and Denmark on the impact of prolonged part-time work. At the same time she commends Timewise for their efforts to improve the quality of part-time jobs. As PP readers will know, I think this is crucial, but will only happen when significantly more men work part-time; and when the binary divide between full- and part-time work is discarded.
Incidentally, I spoke last week to a group of American Democrats Abroad; in looking at the US experience in preparation for this I noted (which I already knew, but only vaguely) that their cut-off point for part-time is 35 hours. Since the meeting was happening in France, I remarked that this meant that the majority of French workers must be part-time by American standards.
Finally, I want also to commend Alison Wolf’s piece in the Resolution Foundation report. She very crisply points out how skewed our current education system is in favour of full-time higher education,and how phoney a lot of apprenticeships have been:
“Promising ‘3 million apprenticeships’ in the next five years (Conservatives) or ‘an apprenticeship for every 18 year old’ (Labour) is a feel-good activity for them. It should be a heart-sink for anyone listening.”