11 thoughts on “No-Pay Day

  1. It’s a pity they don’t explain why, exactly, it is a “rip-off” that some jobs are paid less than others. The closest they come is in saying “Both do a brilliant job” when comparing policemen and nurses. Mightn’t there be other relevant differences? Income shouldn’t track desert in any case.

  2. Richard,

    I looked at the site, and I couldn’t find where they say it’s a rip-off that some jobs are paid less than others. Presumably they don’t think that all work should be equally compensated! (If I just missed it, maybe you can point it out to me?) What I found was the suggestion that jobs of equal value be compensated equally. They also suggest that jobs of equal skill should be equally compensated, too.

  3. John, I think you are right. Certainly, the usual claim is equal pay for equal work. Still, it is a bit more complicated, since one can’t help noticing that women have a much harder time getting the high paying jobs. This is painfully clear in academia, though it is slowly getting better.

  4. I always thought ‘equal pay for equal work’ was meant to apply to literally identical work. Certainly a male nurse should not be paid more than a female nurse simply for being male. But my problem with the examples on their site is precisely that they are comparing different work (e.g. policing vs. nursing), so it’s not clear why they assume this to reflect injustice, rather than a healthy economy that is properly responsive to supply and demand. (As discussed in my linked post, there are very good reasons why “jobs of equal skill” should not necessarily be equally compensated.)

  5. Richard,

    I always thought ‘equal pay for equal work’ was meant to apply to literally identical work.

    No, not literally identical. They mean equal pay for equally valuable work, regardless of the type of work (e.g., policing vs. nursing). And presumably it’s not just that, since we’d also expect roughly equal pay for roughly equal work; minute differences in value shouldn’t correlate with huge differences in compensation, etc.

    The problem, they’re suggesting, is that society systematically undervalues work done by women, so that a women’s work tends not to be compensated as well as it deserves to be. As evidence of this, they offer the 17% figure.

  6. See the link in my first comment. (Crude summary: If incomes were set to reflect what workers “deserve”, rather than what we need more of at the margin, it would disrupt the informativeness of price signals, create bad incentives, and generally screw up the economy.)

  7. Yeah, pretty much what I expected. As I understand it, you’d be alright with the state supplementing women’s pay with cash to bring it up to something near what men earn. But you’d oppose legislation that regulates wages.

  8. Right, though it’d depend on the details. If the govt supplement was tied to the job (e.g. boosting pay for librarians) then that’s going to reproduce all the bad incentives (i.e. too many people will become librarians). On the other hand, if it were a general supplement to all women, then that seems kind of unjust. (Why should male nurses miss out? And redistributing from male labourers to female CEOs seems plain nutty.) So I think it’s going to be difficult to create any sort of appropriate targeting here. And I don’t see any motivation for it in any case. It’s not an injustice that people get paid differently for different jobs, even if equally skilled and so forth. We can all endorse this system from behind the Veil of Ignorance.

    (I do support a completely universal income supplement, though more for forward-looking consequentialist reasons. Relieve poverty, boost real freedom etc. Not desert considerations — I’m skeptical that there are any such things.)

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