Monday, March 08, 2010

Women's income

The Human Rights Commission has released a report about the status of women's human rights. One of their concerns is that more women live in poverty than men.

Is this a valid 'human rights' issue?

They complain that women have incomes more than one third less than men. But there are good reasons for this.

1/ Many women rely on a partners income, especially when children are young.
2/ Many women choose a benefit over a relationship.
3/ More women than men receive Super alone because women have longer life expectancies and are less likely to have income from investments.

If equal income is a human right then the Commission is going to have to look at disparities between ages, ethnicities, regions, occupations, etc.

And how, anyway, would the gap be closed? I contribute to the imbalance because my income is far below my husbands but that is my choice. And I believe it reflects a happier household than would be the case is I was earning at the same level as he is.

Of course groups like the Human Rights Commission would probably favour greater wealth redistribution by the state, which is essentially taking the product of one person's labour and giving it to someone else. Is that an abuse of their human rights? Don't expect a debate about that any time soon.

13 comments:

Psycho Milt said...

As with much of the pay equity whinging, it's a straightforward misuse of statistics.

brian_smaller said...

This drives me nuts. My wife is not currently working in paid employment. Her work involves gardening and growing a portion of our food now. She earns nothing and I earn a salary. According to the study she must be disadvantaged. Except that she has all the money I earn at her disposal. It is called being in a marriage.

MEDICALBOOBOOS said...

The statement 'women chose a benefit over a relationship' is misguided.

You haven't taken into account married women who have been left by their husbands for greener fields.

Women forced onto a benefit because they are leaving an abusive relationship with a couple of under 5's and no disposable income.

It is hard to find a relationship when A. your not allowed one on the benefit.

B. If you do find a suitable partner you have a short amount of time to actually get to know the guy and know if he is viable relationship material, before he is expected to take on a woman and her kids and fully support her.

Not many men would do this and some women find it terrifying to lose their source of income and move in with a guy they hardly know, especially in cases of domestic violence.

If I knew I could physically work 40 hours a week on a decent income I would be off the benefit in a heartbeat.

It has been difficult getting a decent enough part time job, even then I left my hospital bed to go to work for the afternoon.

Not all women on benefits have been unwed young mothers,this is a misconception from people who feel hard done by for paying taxes to beneficiaries.

Yes there are those who milk the system, you have that in every slice of life, including the govt.

Living week by week with only $2 left in your bank account is both a humiliating and depressing situation. No sane person would feel that they are thriving on that, while their ex husband is on $200,000 a year.

Lindsay said...

Medicalbooboos, I think we have had this discussion before. I didn't say ALL women chose a benefit over a relationship. Many women have been hard done by, and so have many men. Sorry it upsets you when I fail to make that qualification.

But a large percentage - at least half - of current single parents on welfare started there as teenagers.

It sounds like things are looking up for you with at least having a "decent enough part time job."

StephenR said...

"I contribute to the imbalance because my income is far below my husbands but that is my choice. And I believe it reflects a happier household than would be the case is I was earning at the same level as he is."

Without wanting to hear anything private, what do you mean? Is this a similar case of one partner working part time to take care of kids when they aren't at kindergarten = happier household(?)

Lindsay said...

Stephen, It merely reflects that I choose to use my time painting and researching. Those are the activities that I find fulfilling (happy household) despite the fact they don't earn me a great deal. My children are school age.

Anonymous said...

"I didn't say ALL women chose a benefit over a relationship. "

Nice slide, Lindsay. True, you didn't say that all women choose a benefit over a relationship.

You just made it #2 on your list of "good reasons" why women have 1/3 less income than men.

Got any actual research on how much of the income disparity is due to benefits?


A.

Lindsay said...

2/ didn't indicate any particular ranking.

The NZ Income Survey shows that government transfer accounts for 24 percent of the median female weekly income. The equivalent figure for males is 8 percent. Government transfer includes Super however.

Benefits, being out of the workforce and working part-time are all contributors to income disparity. But benefits are the main reason why more women than men live in relative poverty.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so you use a numeric ordered list when an unordered list would not be misleading. Fair enough.


Oh dear - please correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to have confused "median" and "average".

http://www.stats.govt.nz/~/media/Statistics/Browse%20for%20stats/NZIncomeSurvey/HOTPJun09qtr/nzis-june09qtr-all-tables.ashx Table 1:

[Male: (cell B12 $67/cell G12 $826)*100 vs Female: (cell B13 $103/cell G13 $430)*100]

Taking the median (if you want to use medians) weekly govt transfers by gender from Table 12 and putting them against median aggregate income in table 1, you'd be horrified to know that the median male weekly govt transfer income is 40% of the median male income from all sources, but the ratio for females is 64%.

Big deal. That's kind've the point: women have lower incomes than men. The baseline income of govt transfers is therefore going to be a larger proportion of female income than male.

You can't even thump the DPB drum that much because table 12 shows that the median govt transfer to females is only $3/w more than males. The *average* is $40/w more, but of course that is the difference between medians and averages, and each has its use.

And of course it's all beside the point, because you might also want to check out table 10, showing average (and median) hourly earnings for people in wage/salary jobs. And women get less than men.


A.

Lindsay said...

I used median because in dealing with quite disparate incomes it is probably more representative. Thank you but I am aware that 'median' and 'average 'are different things.

Why would I be "horrified" at the figures you quote?

"You can't even thump the DPB drum that much because table 12 shows that the median govt transfer to females is only $3/w more than males. The *average* is $40/w more, but of course that is the difference between medians and averages, and each has its use."

Table 12

Number of people receiving government transfers

432,300 males
668,000 females

55 percent more females get their income (or most of it) from the state. Apart from longer life expectancy and the receipt of Super this difference is due to the DPB.

Yes, women earn less than men. How do you propose fixing this? Legislation? Harnessing the power of your friend, the state?

Ever heard the saying that goes something like a state powerful enough to give you everything is also powerful enough to take it away?

Even if you want to argue that all women on the DPB are there because they had been abandoned by men, who gave men that opportunity? Who absolved him of his responsibility? Your friend, the state.

Anonymous said...

If, to get your 8 : 24% ratio, you used B12 g12 and b13 g13 from table one, it looks like you were using averages not medians. Unless you were using something else, but your source was imprecise.

"Apart from longer life expectancy and the receipt of Super this difference is due to the DPB."
Numbers of people on govt transfers give no indication of how much they were receiving or from which benefit. Women, as you said, earn less than men. Someone on limited hours and/or minimum wage could well be receiving an abated unemployment benefit or accommodation supplement, not to mention a student allowance.

You have done nothing to support your assertion that the numeric govt transfer differential is due to the DPB.

We really shouldn't discuss causes of gender income disparities until your statistics actually support your assertions. That's actually my gripe - prove you have justification if you make an assertion. You profess to be a researcher - the only thing that differentiates a "researcher" from a "fantasist" is real-world data.

A.

Lindsay said...

"If, to get your 8 : 24% ratio, you used B12 g12 and b13 g13 from table one, it looks like you were using averages not medians. Unless you were using something else, but your source was imprecise."

Yes. You are right. I made a calculation error. Using the median income the male percentage should have been 9.8 percent (or 10 rounded up). Not 8. I apologise.

"You have done nothing to support your assertion that the numeric govt transfer differential is due to the DPB."

At the 2006 census the percentage of all males/females receiving income from govt was;

NZ Superannuation 13.5 16.1
Other government benefits 1.8 4.6 Domestic purposes benefit 0.6 5.5

http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2006CensusHomePage/QuickStats/quickstats-about-a-subject/incomes/sources-of-income-by-sex.aspx

Take away the DPB figures and the gap closes more than if you take away 'other government benefits'

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I seem to get 9.84% if I use average weekly income as a numerator and median income (all sources) as the denominator. If we're looking at the same table (table1). Check out the merged cell columns B:F row 7.

You're getting a bit closer with the census breakdown. Does the DPB have an abatement regime? In which case one would expect people in lower income jobs (such as, picking random demographic here, women) to have a private income from wages/salary plus a government transfer to make up the shortfall. If it does have an abatement regime then % receiving a benefit could well be insufficient to demonstrate your original suggestion that the gender income disparity is caused (at least partially, but in the top 3) by "2/ Many women choose a benefit over a relationship.". It could just mean that more women are in lower paid jobs and are therefore eligible for income support via a govt transfer of whatever sort.


Thanks for an actual web reference, BTW. You'll be doing Harvard/APA in no time.

A.