It's International Women's Day: How Do We Compare on Fiscal Equality?

Women's payWhen it comes to best places in the world to be a woman, it's not surprising that the U.S. falls behind nations like Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Scandinavian countries, after all, are famed for their impressive social contracts, with the amazing health care and child care benefits that they provide. But you might be shocked to learn that in at least one key metric, American women are being surpassed by those in Mozambique, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, and 13 other developing nations.

The World Economic Forum's 2012 report on the global gender gap ranked the U.S. as the 22nd best country in the world. But when it comes to wage equality, the land of the free and the home of the brave drops to 61st, behind Madagascar, Cambodia and Guyana. Women in America earned 67 percent of what men earned. By comparison, women in Sweden earned 69 percent, women in Canada earned 73 percent, and women in Ireland earned 77 percent.

Dig a little deeper into the numbers and it becomes clear what least part of the problem is. In many countries, unmarried women earn more than unmarried men. In Ireland, for example, the average woman without a child earns 17 percent more than the average man. After having children, however, Irish women make more than 10 percent less, on average, than men. In America, the female-to-male pay gap jumps by almost 15 percentage points after children enter the picture.

The reasons for this decline in wages aren't hard to figure out. Women with children are more likely to leave the workforce, work part time, or otherwise adjust their schedules to deal with child care. Added to this, the high cost of raising a child -- a cost that inordinately falls on women -- further cuts into household budgets.

In some countries, there are programs to mitigate these factors. Ireland, for example, has government-mandated paid maternity leave. Then again, so does every other country in the world, except for Papua New Guinea, Swaziland ... and the U.S.

And these aren't the only areas in which the U.S. falls well behind the pack. In terms of labor force participation based on gender, the U.S. is 43rd in the world, behind Uganda, Mongolia and Benin. Put another way, 68 percent of able-bodied, adult American women are at work, while 80 percent of able-bodied, adult American men are at work.

Part of this, again, is due to child-rearing, as America's lack of publicly-funded child care makes it harder for women in this country to juggle family and work. And the situation looks like it's going to get worse before it gets better. As The International Business Times reported earlier this week, the sequester budget cuts will further erode women's health care programs, Head Start classes, food stamps, and other government services that help U.S. women.

In 2011, the U.S. was ranked 17th in the world when it came to the position of women in society. By 2012, it had fallen five places. And now, with Washington's budget battles poised to slash federal programs and the social safety net, 2013 is shaping up to be another rough year for America's gender gap.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971

Photo Credit: Alamy

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Dr. Gene Sanders

Someone must have spiked the authors Koolaid. His assumptions, they have to be assumptions when one looks at stats from Bureau of Labor Statistics white males, especially white over 40 males, the numbers are staggering, they report:
wht male 37 (over 40yrs=27%, under 40yrs=10% total =37%)
blk males 17%
hisp females 15%
hisp males 11%
blk women 8%
wht women 5%
asian women 4%
asian 3%

Asians enjoy a reasonable level of employment with white women next best as far as employment prospects, followed by black females, them hispanic males and so on.
Many countries are now following the UK's no hiring white males policy and the US government has, with the exception of high tech and high end science/research jobs, has had an undisclosed policy of hiring no white males for over eight years.
So for white males the possibility of employment is virtually nil.

April 10 2013 at 5:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Factors that the author ignored are paramount is explaining the wage gap difference overall. The important factors must be recognized also. Women DO NOT LIKE doing many of the jobs that men do for a living. it really is just that simple. Not very many woman want to be iron workers and weld frames together on 20 story high rise buildings or paint the top of the George Washington Bridge. No very any women want to be welders with sparks flying around then all day long, just as most women do not want to join paid fire departments and run into burning buildings.. Most women do NOT want to be roofers or exterminators and pick up dead rats and animals.. Many women fear electricity so they do not want to be electricians. Most women do not want to be anywhere near smelly sewerage, so they don;t want to be plumbers and deal with that filth. You cannot expect female beauticians, secretaries, store sales clerks etc. who work indoors in heated and air conditioned places ___ to earn as much and the people who are willing to work outdoors in the hot summer heat and freezing cold winters doing physically demanding jobs. or even walking in the rain all day delivering our mail. Face reality gals ___there are many jobs that majority of females just do not want to do. Any female can drive a cross country tractor trailer or chemical or gasoline tank truck and earn $60,000 to $80,000 per year, but few few females want that job. On all unionized jobs men and women in the USA are paid exactly the same wages. For any comparison to be VAIL it only must compare men and women working at doing EXACTLY the same job. Such as what do male and female loggers earn, or what do male and female commercial fishermen earn.

March 10 2013 at 1:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

maybe when women decide to do equal work we'll pay you equally.
Takeout your own god damn 20 pound bag of trash. Carry your own stuff around the office. move your own furniture. You're a big girl remember? Youre STRONG! Do an equal amount f PHYSICAL LABOR in your field up to par with men then and only THEN do you deserve equal pay.

March 09 2013 at 12:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to panigales's comment

Office your complaining about office lifting. Wimp. As a cook I would lug 50+ pounds of potatoes put about 20 pounds in a pot with water and lift it to the burner. Never asked anyone to do my job and it did involve heavy lifting. Typical male whiner. Blame the woman. Instead of looking at the state of our economy.

March 09 2013 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply