Do Gender Pay Audits Bring Wages Down?
There’s a debate to be had about gender pay audits or reviews. To be effective, should they be compulsory and public? Do they have the desired effect on pay equality? And could they result in pay equity within given occupations, but even lower overall wages where the majority of the workforce is female?
The Fawcett Society reported recently that 30 years of equal pay legislation has taken us almost nowhere in terms of income equite between men and women. Apparently, it will be roughly another 85 years before we can hope to see this in reality.
In other words, sometime never… So obviously we’re not getting it quite right, despite the legislation.
Equal pay audits
One ‘solution’ which has been proposed is compulsory equal pay audits in employing organsiations The logic of this way forward is already being followed by some organisations such as the NHS (National Health Service, Agenda for Change) and socially responsible companies, where careful parity of pay against task is already established. But many businesses do not do it.
At least in theory such audits or reviews would ensure equal pay for equal work. This is something few would argue against.
Making it fair
But is there a snag, unless the audit is compulsory for everyone? If only some types of employment – for instance, in the third and public sectors – oblige by doing the decent thing, will that result in higher wages, probably for the usual parties, in other unmeasured and unreported sectors?
And would this also mean that wages in those sectors which are monitored take a general downward turn? – There is plenty of historical evidence of average wages falling in given occupations as numbers of women in them increase.
Maybe this is a bit like the situation reportedly found in Scandinavia, where people’s tax returns are posted for all to see? Cynics have been known to suspect that high earners sometimes find a haven for their money outside that declarable fiscal area… with the loss to the national economy which that is thought to entail.
Plugging the gaps?
How are we to deliver fair and equal return on endeavour without having ‘havens’ for those who consider themselves above that sort of thing? If there’s a sensible answer, many of us would be pleased to hear about it.