What, exactly, do you mean by “equal work”?

It’s Equal Pay Day! Supposedly, women earn 77 cents on the man’s dollar for the same work.  But as the Independent Women’s Forum points out, once you start comparing women and men who are in the same professions, the wage gap shrinks.  When you compare never-married women and their male counterparts (because married women often leave the work force), women earn comparable salaries to men.

I’m the first to say that there is some lingering discrimination in pay, promotions, and even graduate acceptance rates.  But it is insane to pretend that women and men ought to earn the same amount of money, even if she is working exactly forty hours a week in a stable job that does not improve a company’s bottom line, and he is working sixty or seventy hours a week, subjected to potential lay-offs, and makes something that his company can sell to other people.

Wage is not merely a function of “virtue”; it is a function of scarcity of one’s skill, the worth of that skill on the free market, hours worked and productive capacity during those hours, ability to save the company money, and ability to do difficult, high-level tasks.  It’s also a function of the stability of one’s job, the physical risks one takes therein, and the capital cost of getting that job (e.g. expensive degrees, or start-up costs of a business).  People also want to be compensated for misery on the job (physical risks, travel and time away from home, etc.).

If we insisted on paying everyone the same thing, then no one would be an investment banker, lawyer, doctor, engineer, or any other job that requires sacrifice, stress, and talent.  No one would ever take a risk with his money, since the other option would be to get exactly the same return with no risk.  That, my friends, is a great way to crash the economy.

Equal pay for equal work is a great idea, but work is not “equal” merely because some third-wave feminist says it is.


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