by Mike Hall
Women are at greater economic risk in today’s sinking economy than in past recessions, a new report shows. In the past year, women’s real wages fell by 3 percent, compared with half a percentage point for men’s wages.
The report comes as the nation is set to mark Equal Pay Day tomorrow and just days before the U.S. Senate votes on a bill to give workers, especially women workers, stronger protection from pay discrimination.
Female workers have suffered more job loss and reductions in wages during the past few months than has the general population and have fewer financial firewalls than male workers to protect them when they lose their jobs, according to the report from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Says committee chairmen Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.):
These findings demonstrate the severe and disproportionate impact of this recession on women and their families. We need to act immediately to restore women’s right to fair pay, provide workers with paid sick days and shore up programs that help workers and families endure hard times.
The report says women are at greater risk because of
…longstanding discrimination and economic disadvantage….There are also large holes in our society’s safety net and public programs that leave women behind in times of economic crisis.
Other findings include:
The unemployment rate for women has climbed faster than for men, from 3.8 percent in March 2007 to 4.6 percent last month, a 20 percent jump, compared with a 17 percent jump in the unemployment rate for men.
Women also are disproportionately at risk in the current foreclosure crisis, since women are 32 percent more likely than men to have subprime mortgages.
Existing pay disparities for women exacerbate the economic strain on women and on households run by women, since women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Women have significantly fewer savings to fall back on in a time of economic hardship. Non-married women have a net worth that’s 48 percent lower than non-married men, and women are less likely than men to participate in employer-sponsored retirement savings programs.
Click here to download the full report, Taking a Toll: The Effects of Recession on Women.
Tomorrow, Equal Pay Day, represents how far into 2008 women must work just to be paid the same amount men received in 2007. Becuse women are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, they have $23 less for every $100 worth of work to spend on groceries, housing, child care and other expenses.
Also this week, the Senate is expected to vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (S. 1843) that would reverse a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision dismissing a suit by Ledbetter, an employee for 19 years at a Goodyear Tire plant in Alabama who says she was paid less than her male counterparts. The Supreme Court said she did not file her suit against within 180 days after the discrimination occurred, as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.