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Eurosceptic Bloggers

Monday, March 14, 2005

Gender Institute

The Record, the BBC’s EU politics programme had a special women’s day edition over the weekend. In place of the usual mixed panel, there were four Female MEP’s discussing the problems of pay differences. Apparently there is an average of about 20-25% difference in the pay scales of men and women doing the same jobs, and Sweden, that paradise of equal opportunity came out no better than average. Of course the obvious solution is a Gender Institute.
The EU is set to launch an institute which will research and highlight gender equality policies. The institute, which should open its doors in 2007, aims to become an ‘independent centre of excellence’ launching conferences and campaigns and providing information for European and national policy makers.
Of course this will not solve the problem, but will enable busybodies to interfere even more in our lives in the cause of equality. When the medicine does not work, they will simply double the dose. At the risk of being accused of being a cave man, I have a few suggestions. Women as employees, always represent a small risk to employers compared to men. Maternity leave and first responsibility for children means that good employees can be lost or their productivity go down. Therefore it is probably true that there is discrimination. However, if that discrimination were really as bad as is being claimed, the arbitrage opportunities would be massive. A huge cheap workforce that for whoever wished to employ them would be an opportunity that even the most chauvinistic employer would find hard to resist. Therefore I find it hard to believe that the situation is that bad. In fact in light of the situation in Polly’s favourite Scandinavian heaven, I am inclined to believe that extended rights to all kinds of parental flexibility, leave and part time working is exacerbating the problem. The small risk that naturally exists has simply been made larger. So the Gender Institute is likely to make the situation for working women worse, thereby guaranteeing an infinite need for its views on equality in the workplace. With labour laws that discriminate against the unemployed and a belief that everyone should work full time, permanently for the same organisation, European Unemployment is huge. The situation is worse for women who may wish to take a break from a career, when their children are small. Not only do they face a disadvantage from having taken a break but when they wish to retrun there are no jobs anyway. This is without including the fact that men are more likely to be working in unionised jobs with above market wages. I don’t know if there is a full solution to this problem, but I am sure that labour market reform would have a better impact than any number of gender institutes.

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