UNICEF Gender Equality Report
Via Ezra Klein, I see that UNICEF has published its annual “State of the World’s Children” report (PDF available here). It’s subtitle gives you a good clue of the contents: “Women and Children: The Double Dividend of Gender Equality.”
Not surprisingly, women’s rights are strongest in the most prosperous societies. The causal relationship is debatable, to be sure, but there’s not much doubt that societies in which women have the right to an education, to own property, to decide when and whether to have children, and the like are going to be better off than those in which that’s not the case.
Still, much of the report is rather heavy handed in its agenda.
Now, frankly, I find it more interesting that less than forty percent of the children in Africa are getting a secondary education than that there’s a smallish gap in gender equality in education there. Indeed, girls’ attendance is actually slightly higher than boys’ in parts of the developing world.
This chart, which caught Ezra’s eye, may or may not be particularly interesting:
He’s right that “what’s remarkable about the wage gap is how near-constant it is across the world.” Yet, different outcomes are not necessarily the result of rigged rules. In the West, women have had full property rights, access to education, and the like for more than a generation. In some countries, the tradition goes back half a century or more. Yet, the wage gap persists.
Without looking at multiple variables, though, it’s not that interesting. Choices matter.
In the West, women disproportionately chose lower-earning occupations, like teaching school, that allow more flexibility. They are also more likely then men to take sabbaticals from their work to raise children. The report notes that,
Factors such as the amount of time women spend working outside the household, the conditions under which they are employed, who controls the income they generate, and the costs and quality of childcare determine how the work undertaken by women in the labour market affects their own well-being and that of children.
Well. . . yeah. Substitute “men” for “women” in that sentence and it still holds true. If you get a PhD from Harvard and then become a teacher or, shudder, a writer, you’re likely going to earn less money than a high school drop-out who learned a trade, too.
Now if women (or young girls) are being forced to raise children and denied the opportunity to go to school or pursue their chosen careers, it’s a problem. If it’s a voluntary decision that’s in the best interests of the family, though, not so much.
In many countries, high-quality childcare remains prohibitively expensive for low-income families in the absence of state provision or subsidies. Parents often rely on extended family members or older children — most often girls — to provide childcare while they work, often at the expense of children’s education.
Right. So, if you have children and you can’t earn more net income than you’d pay for child care, it’s more economically efficient to care for your own children. That’s also true of less time-consuming activities like food preparation, household cleaning, and lawn care.
The suggestion that the government should pay for child care so that mothers can nonetheless take jobs that pay less than child care makes no sense at all. Somebody has to actually pay for that. That somebody is the tax paying public. So, rather than taking care of your own kids, the government is going to do it for you, add on the costs of various bureaucratic waste and inefficiency, and then charge you and your neighbors.