Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"Mothers lose right to equal salaries"

"Women who take time out of the workplace for maternity leave have no automatic right to the same pay as male colleagues who are doing the same job but have not had time off, Europe’s top court ruled yesterday...Bernadette Cadman, 44, a health inspector from Manchester, brought the case after she realised that she was being paid up to £13,000 less a year than male colleagues who were doing the same job.", says The Times of London.

There is no end to the narcissism and selfishness of middle-class women. Are they seriously suggesting that employers should not pay their workers in proportion to their length of service and experience? That seems to be what they are demanding.

Why should someone with no experience be paid the same as someone with twenty years' experience? The fact is, the veteran employee has job skills which are both deeper and wider, better established colleagial and client relationships, more self discipline, and is generally of more value to the company than someone with no experience. They are a tried and tested, reliable asset to the organisation, unlike someone who has just walked in off the street. Of course employers are going to pay them more, and if one employer doesn't, another one will.

I think you'll find that if women were the ones with the greater experience and higher salaries, that would be perfectly acceptable. You would be able to hear a pin drop in the feminist camp. Jemimah will expect her own seniority to be recognised if she has it, but she denies her male colleagues the same right.

I don't believe that even feminists could argue something as absurd as the claim that experience should not be linked with pay, so in some ways I have just knocked down a straw man to make a point. Their gripe is only about maternity leave.

When Jemimah gives up her job to spend a year at home looking after little Sebastian, she expects to go back into the workplace at the same level as her colleagues who didn't take any time off. Why on earth does she think she has a right to that? They've been working all the while, completing new projects, keeping up with developments in the industry, establishing new customer relationships, while she has been at home. Now she has to play catch-up, but that's her problem. The fact is, no-one forced her to have a baby. It was her choice.

I've told this one before, but it is worth repeating. A male friend of mine who comes from a South European country had to do compulsory military service at eighteen. He commented that when he and his friends came out of the army and entered university, the girls they knew from high school were already one or two years ahead of them. It would not be reasonable for him to insist that he should be allowed to enter university straight into the third year. If you take one or two years out of the career market, then you go back into it one or two years behind everyone else. That's life. At least working women can choose whether or not to have children; my friend couldn't choose whether or not to join the army.

I don't accept this special pleading for mothers. I don't think that taking a year off to have a baby is any different from taking a year off to travel the Amazon rain-forest, climb Everest, or undertake any other quest for self-fulfillment. Because let's face it, that's why Jemimah had her baby. To make her feel more fulfilled. In fact, that's why Jemimah has a career.

Did you spot the casual sexism in the Times article I quoted? "she realised that she was being paid up to £13,000 less a year than male colleagues who were doing the same job". Male colleagues? What about the childless females?

Personally, I'd like to take a year off to tour the flesh-pots of South East Asia. Hey, it might make me feel more fulfilled. And when I get back, if my boss doesn't give me the same promotion he gave my colleagues, I'm going to sue his ass. It's my right.


Anonymous said...

In principle, I completely agree with your comments. Of course it's ridiculous to imagine that one should be allowed to take a years-long voluntary leave of absence and return to work at the same pay rate one would have earned had one not taken the leave. And, yes, this is another example of an annoying "have it all" mentality.

However, there is a practical consideration that cannot be overlooked: Western women, especially middle-class western women, are not having enough babies. This is a problem even here in the US but is at a near-crisis level in Europe. Increasing the financial cost of taking leave from work to have children is unlikely to improve this situation. Wishing for a return to the days when women expected to have (several) children and leave the workforce permanently is unrealistic.

Therefore, one can argue that it is in the greater demographic interests of society to discriminate positively in favor of working mothers as an encouragement to reproduction (and, as a side benefit, to spend more time at home with their younger children).

Heretic said...

Dear anonymous,
Of course, you are right about the lack of babies being born in the West, but surely, the government paying women to have babies is hardly the best solution. The crisis could be averted without cost simply by allowing more immigration; if we are short of workers, there are plenty overseas we could invite. Furthermore, the systematic undermining of marriage, fatherhood and the family does nothing to help matters. If the government wants to implement some incentives to encourage middle-class reproduction, it could start there.

Davout said...

"..some incentives to encourage middle-class reproduction..."

How about starting by letting women know that female fertility peaks at 27? How about reducing pointless HR, bureaucratic and services jobs and using the money recovered to boost the minumum wage.