Women in India, those living on the equivalent of $2 a day, often struggle to advance in education or jobs because of time spend caring for others. (This ‘Care Imperative’ has been noted recently by UN Women.) Their lives are too constrained by the human imperatives of unpaid care for others to be able to take advantage of better opportunities. And India is not unique among developing countries.
But what about elsewhere, in richer countries?
No surprise: a persistent gender pay gap persists due to …you guessed it…women’s responsibilities for care. American culture often shames women into care giving responsibilities and implicitly penalizes men who seek to advance in their careers while sharing childcare. So a gender wage gap shows up everywhere.
In the US and Europe legislators and labor economists debate the magnitude of the pay gap (77 cents to the dollar? 83? Can we really average across job categories anyway?) and sociologists apportion blame (women who voluntarily take on too much and don’t even ask for higher wages? Men who think unloading the dishwasher is doing half the housework?) while the average middle-age worker rushes breathlessly from day to day, just trying to balance it all.
Of course gender wage inequality is caused by employment discrimination and not just the burden of those ‘second and third’ jobs women carry at home. Governments struggle to act in this arena: in the US, the Senate recently blocked consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to help narrow the wage gap between men and women. Thought President Obama recently signed two executive orders aimed at helping shrink the gender pay gap, sadly both are pretty pointless for the vast majority of workers* – but perhaps they are designed only for symbolism anyway.
Frank Bruni of the New York Times describes how it looks for adult siblings – the brother with one job, no kids, and the sister with a full-time day job and three other ‘jobs’ doing…wait for it…caregiving.
*Neither order would affect the broad American work force. One order bars federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries (think about that for a minute: we need legislation for this? We can’t discuss our own salaries with coworkers?) and an executive memorandum instructs the Labor Department to collect statistics on pay for men and women from contractors. Pretty dramatic stuff there.