May 5, 2024

Stop press: Woman discovers that the world is an unfair place

I got my first proper job in 1992, as a trainee manager for a catering and facilities management company. I had a degree, no experience of anything, and a series of poor decisions behind me. My salary was £10,500 and I thought that was really rather impressive. It was enough to pay rent, eat nice things, buy better clothes, and save into a Personal Equity Plan that I held on to until I started maternity leave in 2006.

I hated that job, and moved quickly into a career in administration, which is much less exciting than it sounds. I was reasonably successful at it, though, and while I can’t remember exactly what I was earning as Business Manager for a small automotive chemical company in the midlands, it was in the region of £30k, and that’s the most I’ve ever earned. I left that job in 2003, and it’s all been downhill from there.

However… the work has got more interesting, and more valuable to the world. I moved from that role, to toy safety testing, to workers rights’ auditing, to admin in an adoption charity, and then to the charity I’ve been working for in various different roles since 2007. I’ve reduced my employed hours all the way down to zero at one point, developing various self-employed roles in interesting things like podcasting and being a doula, and I’m currently tutoring on a course that was, when I first started, really well thought out and delivered transformational learning for the majority of our students. It’s 20 years since I was earning £30k and feeling quite happy with it, and that’s still precisely what I’m earning (or it would be if I worked full time). My non-salaried working hours are spent doing my PhD, volunteering as a breastfeeding counsellor, running the occasional antenatal class, parenting, and managing a household.

This is all starting to sound like a job application, but what I’m really thinking about is how Pete’s salary has gone up and up, while mine has gone down and down. His work, I hope he wouldn’t mind me saying, adds nothing of value to the world. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a lovely bloke and he knows his stuff, he’s great at what he does. But what does he do? Make apps work better, or something. Nobody really knows.

I absolutely love the work I do, but why do I have to do it either completely unpaid, or for what actually works out as only just a living wage? How is the world so broken, that helping people to feed their babies is worth next to nothing? And don’t tell me it’s pointless because they can just use formula, you capitalist swine.

The average man would earn £166.63 more per week if his unpaid work was paid, whereas the average woman would earn £259.63.
So not only do women do an average of 60% more unpaid work in terms of hours, they also tend to do the work that has a higher value.
Office of National Statistics 2016

Women not only do more unpaid work, but their unpaid work has higher value than that of men. This doesn’t even start to unpick how the important work of caring, teaching, supporting parents, and doing research that will make people’s lives better, is unpaid or paid much, much less than the work of making apps better, or whatever it is.

Meanwhile, Pete’s salary basically makes it possible for me to do this sort of work, making up for two things:

  1. My inability to fully commit to a Proper Career; and
  2. The world being so broken that important things are not worth paying for.

I am quite aggrieved by all of this.


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