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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

Caring - Should we?

My usual go-to accusation re pay inequality is sexism …

My initial belief was that as men were the ones who ran the western economy; they were also the one who put a dollar value to jobs. As women traditionally had done the caring; the cleaning, the teaching and nurturing; well these jobs were de-valued by ‘the blokes’ , considered ‘women’s work’ and therefore less important and usually done for free (I’m beginning my assessment post WW1, I hasten to add).

I’ve widened my understanding a tad. When our culture placed women in the home the income of men was considered the wage that supported the family unit. If a woman was in the workforce she was consider ‘single’ and therefore not needing a wage that could support a family or she was there by choice, and again – she didn’t need the bucks.

And if she were a single mum? Well, in polite society single mums did not exist. If she were a widow, in polite society there was a family who would/could assist her and if she were a war widow and/or her deceased husband belonged to certain professional schemes, then varied degrees of financial assistance might be forthcoming.

And as these financial discrepancies hardened into ‘the way things are’, demographics began to form around professions and jobs. Although cultural roles and the workforce was changing, still the carers of society were disadvantaged. Those traditional caring jobs became a part of the working underclass – generally women and people of non-Anglo background in the Western World. In American culture you have men and women (predominantly women) of Asian American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander and African American backgrounds in the caring professions. In Australia, we have men and women (predominantly women) of South East Asian and Pacific Islander background who are similarly employed. Even though the world has shifted and we all know that in most family households two incomes are essential, our economy just doesn’t reflect the reality.

The evolution of a financial reward system – initially influenced by gendered roles and social understanding – has solidified into a system that perpetuates an underclass by underpaying these essential jobs.

Nothing to do with the value of a profession to a community. All to do with the values built on embedded, historic gender and cultural bias.

For an interesting articles please see:

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