Gender Wage Gap

The Economist magazine features an article about how much less women make.  In the EU, men make still 17.4% more than women and this is after 50 years of strenuous social-democratic effort to equalize outcomes. There is always a lot of gnashing of teeth on this subject.  The gap persists all around the world – America’s gap is above the EU average and about the same as Germany or UK – and everybody infers discrimination.   I don’t know if that explains the difference.   

Firms will move their operations to other cities, across state lines and even to foreign countries to save some money on labor costs.  The cost of labor is usually the highest cost of doing business.  Imagine if you can get the same amount of work for 10, 20 or even 30% less. 

We have to assume that firms that have more women must be more profitable if women are indeed paid less for the same work.

In Estonia, they pay women more than 30% less.  If firms in Estonia can get the same work done for 30% less, I wonder why they don’t hire only women and I wonder why companies from all over Europe don’t move to Estonia and hire these wonderfully economical Estonian women so that they too can profit from the low labor costs. 

Could it really be that business owners all over the world are just too dumb to take advantage of this wage differential?  Or maybe they are just not interested in making money or they are not greedy enough to pick up a 17.4% profit opportunity that is dropped in front of them.  

Maybe the astonishing statistics are misleading. 

Choice makes a difference.  I read that men suffer 92% of the workplace fatalities.  That is a frightening statistic, but it has little to do with discrimination and a lot to do with choice of jobs & lifestyles.  Choice explains more things than we like to admit.  (The most dangerous occupation, BTW, is good old forestry.  Look on page 15 of that report linked just above.)  Doing different things produces different outcomes.  This simple self-evident truth seems to offend some people these days.  Maybe it is too simple.  They prefer complexity.  It provides more places to hide, more excuses for screwing up, more opportunities to blame others.

Iraq, forestry and I ride my bike to work in Washington traffic.  Maybe I should rethink my choices … naaah. Besides, office work is the safest of all occupations and that is what I do most.  It evens out in the long run and in the long run we are all dead anyway. 

Above is a tree cutting machine at work in the woods near Portland Oregon.  I saw it when I was there for the foresty convention in October 2008.  The machines make it safer for the workers.  Few things are more dangerous than cutting in thick timber with a chain saw.  The branches of the trees are laced together a long way up.  The big danger comes from snagged branches falling down and landing on the poor guys down below.  Even small branches fall hard when they fall 100 feet. They call them “widow makers.”