27 January 2022

Alan Kohler — hardly a raging lefty: “[W]eak wage growth has been the most pressing economic problem for years, and arguably the most pressing social problem is the financial disadvantage of women. Too many jobs are chronically underpaid, and they are mainly the ones done by women: aged care, child care, nursing, waiting, interior design, book editing — in fact virtually any job done mainly by women is both undervalued and underpaid. … Right now, there is a ballooning crisis in health care and aged care because workers simply aren’t paid enough for the pressure they’re under in the pandemic: there’s no buffer, and unions are warning of an exodus from the industry if the job is not valued more highly. It’s not so much that individual employers don’t want to pay their staff more, although there’s undoubtedly some of that. Most businesses value their staff and want them to be happy. But they can’t charge their customers more, or think they can’t. With child care there is a circular ceiling on prices: operators can’t charge more than the mother earns, otherwise it’s not worth going to work and having the children looked after by someone else (that is, another woman). But as discussed, women are often poorly paid, which flows to those looking after their children.Government subsidies for aged care, child care and health care could be increased sufficiently to lift wages, thereby socialising the solution rather than putting the burden entirely on those using the services.”