Friday, November 11, 2005

Unexpected Origins

A week or so ago, Taggert over at A Random Walk discussed the ironic origins of the minimum wage bill.

Here's a quote from the article he references:

Progressives, including Richard Ely, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, the Webbs in England etc., were interested not in protecting women but in protecting men and the race. Their goal was to get women back into the home, where they belonged, instead of abandoning their eugenic duties and competing with men for work.

As it turns out, so-called Family Friendly policies seem to be following a somewhat similar pattern. I just re-read The Baby Boon by Burkett. In it, she points out one of the ironies of current Corporate work-life or family-friendly policies. In the mid-1900s, feminists decryed what was known as the "family wage". This was essentially a justification for paying men with wives and children higher wages not based on merit, but but on perceived need. It worked to the disfavor of working women, most of whom were single at that time. It also disadvantaged working mothers at the time, most of whom were minorities.

Ironically, Burkett argues that family-friendly policies do exactly the same thing, except now, they favor working mothers. Instead of paying people based on merit or productivity, wage and benefit subsidies in the form of work-life balance policies are heavily weighted toward those with kids.

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