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It’s the Wages Not the Jobs That Matter

It’s the Wages Not the Jobs That Matter

For the first time since the early 1980′s the unemployment rate in this country bumped above 10% as 10.2% of Americans were actively looking for work.  The coming days will no doubt bring a lot of hand-wringing and punditry about what this number means in the face of hopes that the American economy was on the rebound.  In the midsts of all that analysis though, I suspect we’ll miss a crucial piece of the economic puzzle.  That is because the real story in the October jobless numbers isn’t the number of Americans out of work.  The real story remains the income disparity between those men and women who still have their jobs.

Women now comprise over 50% of the US labor market yet consistently earn .78 cents on the dollar for the same work as their male peers.  As detailed in The Shriver Report and covered earlier here, for the first time in American history women are now more likely than men to be the primary income earners in their families.  The steady purge of jobs in this Great Recession has left more men than women unemployed.  The effect is to not only reinforce that women are the workhorses of the American labor pool, but to illustrate that the American employment landscape has shifted, and it has shifted radically and permanently.

What does any of this have to do with the October unemployment figures?  Everything.  Women are not leaving the job market in the face of any purported recovery, so their presence in our employment landscape is permanent.  Further, there’s growing evidence that the recovery that may be underway will be, for all intents and purposes, a jobless recovery.  So not only will this country have lost, permanently, hundreds of thousands of jobs, more men than women will remain unemployed once the recovery actually takes hold.  And by failing to address disparities in incomes any recovery will very likely permanently depress the incomes of working families.

There is no doubt that this country needs to figure out how to create lasting and sustainable job growth and fast.  But any job growth that fails to address earning inequality will only go to reinforce, rather than relieve, the burdens facing working families. 

Even as economists reach for any silver lining they can in this report–the increase in temporary workers, signals that employers are adding hours to those who have been able to retain their jobs–the larger issue of a steady decrease in our standard of living remains.  This decrease will not change without making sure that women and men are paid equal wages for equal work.  The only way to ensure this happens and to hold employers accountable is to pass the Equal Pay Act.  Our lawmakers don’t seem to be able to connect these dots, so let’s try and make it clearer for them.  Click here to sign the petition urging passing of the Equal Pay Act because a failure to address income disparity once and for all is a failure to secure the future prosperity of this country.

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photo courtesy of Libelu via Flickr

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19 comments

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7:10PM PST on Nov 9, 2009

I would be interested to know if any business owners are posting on this board.

7:40AM PST on Nov 9, 2009

We work to create stuff we need to live, not simply to have jobs and income. It's actually the productivity that matters, and if we had a world free of government-granted privilege (money and natural resource monopoly being the two biggest culprits there), everyone would be doing well, and no one would be exploited, including women.

In terms of the pay inequality, hey, it's supposed to be a free market; if you don't like the pay, find something better. If we were actually able to get rid of privilege, women would have much greater opportunities for starting their own businesses, there'd be more competition for labor, and so wages would rise naturally. As an aside, is it not the case that one reason women, as a group, get lower wages is because they take time off for having babies, causing their employers to both lose productivity and spend more money for job training?

2:11AM PST on Nov 9, 2009

Since money in itself is one of the biggest bullshiz creations of all time...
It doesn't matter either way.
See for yourself, just google "Money as Debt" and educate yourself about how you're being manipulated into slave labour all over again, watch the yahoo or youtube video and see for yourself how you break your back every day, struggle to put food in your mouth, all for naught.

If you're interested in what you find, give me a message or something ^_^

4:10PM PST on Nov 8, 2009

As an Aussie i was stunned to read of your unemployment rate, we haven't been as affected here, of course in both countries there are many more 'hidden' unemployed - homeless,underemployed, wives of underemployed men, who are not counted. Great to see recognition that the root cause is global capital and governments that have a laiisez-faire attitude rather than using human rights, equity and ecological reality as a foundation. Thing is this system cannot last as we are witnessing - the sytem is guilty of money fetishism - the very fabric of our existence, the planet is being destroyed because of it,and will continue to be until we bring into being systems based on socio-ecological reality not the abstract economic systems of men in suits - it is not hopeless - watch Venezuela and Cuba, and emerging movements in Western Europe

1:28PM PST on Nov 8, 2009

Don't forget that over a period of 30+ years, public funds that were once used for human needs (welfare, social services) were transferred over into covering the costs of moving our jobs to foreign countries, via billions of dollars of corporate tax relief, grants, etc. Tragically, this is what we wanted.

Workfare (the replacement for humanitarian aid) has proved to be a stunningly powerful tool for replacing workers with super-cheap, involuntary temp help workers -- as was predicted -- while supressing wages and crushing efforts to form unions.
Americans grow poorer, corporations grow richer. Getting a wage cut? Well, there's nothing you can do about today. Go on strike, and you'll be replaced by morning.

This is the new reality for American workers. This is the price we pay for "getting tough" on the poorest among us. Today, when so many desperately need a social safety net to keep their families together, it's gone.

6:00PM PST on Nov 7, 2009

The question is: will the unemployment rate during the Bush recession exceed that attained by the Reagan recession?

5:57PM PST on Nov 7, 2009

I think I see a pattern here. They're getting rid of those they have to pay the most and keeping the ones they have to pay the least... although I've heard rumours that this whole economic meltdown is as much a fraud as the "War on Terror", secretly engineered by whomever's orchestrating the government...

5:55PM PST on Nov 7, 2009

Ever watch the movie "Zeitgeist"? According to them, this whole economic meltdown is a fraud, just like the "War on Terror". I believe it, too...

5:44PM PST on Nov 7, 2009

Americans are all victim! We are victims of Wall St. the Federal Reserve in the way they cheated the American people. The Obama administration with the staff of former Goldman Sachs CEO's, bank adminstrators, past department heads who favored the bailouts of the bailouts of the financial institution. Recently, it came to light that Goldman-Sachs bet that the mortgage industry would collapse. They knew what was going to happen before it happened! Knowledge of failures and the collapse of the whole economy seems not to make sense when they came out smelling like a rose because they hedged their bets! Goldman Sachs was the only organization to make a profit during the meltdown!

If a country allows such corruption, they will act upon it. The rules of the game were in such lopsided favor of these institutions they had a free ride with the Federal Reserve behind them! This is the reason why unemployment is at double digits! This is with the hyperinflation that has taken over and with local governments clamoring for revenue, budget cuts and loss of jobs. But those on the left shouldn't be fighting those on the right on the issue. They are frustrated as well as the other side. Instead, their loss is our loss. They have to understand the issues like dereguation, "Free Trade" policies, and globalization, are not the antithesis of socialism. Socialism is an excuse by the elitists who used, and schemed to enrich themselves through these measures. Unemployment is the by product!

2:43PM PST on Nov 7, 2009

As advocates of "Capitalism" with its emphasis on profit(eering)
you must expect that business, any business, will chase the lowest costs with the highest resultant profit margin. If "Wetback" labor isn't available the alternatives are move abroad for slave labor conditions. If that isn't possible, and child labor can't be exploited, then I'm afraid female exploitation is the only alternative.

Until Americans accept that Unionised workplaces are not only the means of gaining a fairer wage and work place then employers will always seek the best way for themselves. Unfortunately most employers do not realise that when ALL employees are on the same working conditions with Unionised conditions prevailing then they too benefit by competing at
the same level.

The next step is the most necessary one Taxing the cheap imports to the level where they have to compete fairly with the local products. The alternative is banning imports from countries with oppressive workplace pay and conditions, especially those countries producing goods using prison labor (Slaves).

For that person only receiving $16,000 pa. In Australia a fruit packer would get the "Award" of seventeen dollars AN HOUR.
Male or Female. I'll admit some growers exploit travellers, pay less and are being continually hauled before the courts and fined. There will always be those who will try to exploit the FREE enterprise from Bankers to Bakers.


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