Equality between all people, regardless of age, colour or gender is something which every democratic society seeks to achieve in order to permit social justice and human rights, yet in nearly all societies and in all scopes of activity, women are subject to inequalities. This is most often both caused and exacerbated by the presence of discrimination in the family, community and work place. Though the causes and consequences of this may vary from country to country, discrimination against women is widespread, maintained by the existence of deep-rooted religious and traditional practices, beliefs and stereotypes detrimental to women. The unequal division of labour between me and women within the household, the workplace and the public sphere are areas which are greatly explored in detail within the branch of Feminist Economics. The general view within feminist economics is that the division of labour based on gender is unfair and should be eliminated.
This paper will examine the different aspects of inequality which women are still subject within the workplace and household, despite all that has been done to eradicate inequality, paying particular attention to the UK, and how these different forms of injustice could possibly be overcome.
Women have made great progression within the labour market over the last few decades regarding pay and career progression at work, however many barriers to their success still remain (The Equalities Review, 2007: online). The Equal Pay Legislation was brought into force in the UK in order to address this issue of wage inequality between men and women (Fawcett Society, 2010: online) over 40 years ago, however the problem has not been eradicated. Women make up 64% of the lowest paid workers in Britain leading to a 16.4% pay gap between men and women, the largest gender pay gap in the European Union (ONS, 2009).
Research shows that there is a gender pay gap of 10.5% between men and women in full time work, when comparing their median earnings. The gender pay difference between all men and women in work was around 19.5% in 2010, a decrease from around 19.8% in 1997 (ONS, 2012).
Research conducted by the UK government into the causes of this pay gap showed that 16% of the gap was caused by women taking out time from work in order to look after family and also the from the effects of having worked part time previously, and 21% due to differences in years of full-time work (Home Office, 2012: online).
The cause of this particular issue surrounds the fact that women still do the majority of caring and are consequently penalised due the lack of flexible working and the culture of working long (Fawcett Society, 2010: online), thus having to work part time hours in order to fit around their role as carers. This issue is worsened by the fact that women are often faced with negative attitudes, discrimination and even dismissal in their workplace due to their roles or potential roles as mothers or carers (Fawcett Society, 2010: online). A study conducted in 2004 found that nearly a quarter of women who made an employment tribunal claim were dismissed within hours of notifying their employers about their pregnancy, and a fifth of women were also given lower graded jobs after returning from their maternity leave (EOC, 2004: online).
There have been attempts to address this issue by the government through the implementation of policies such as the right to request flexible working, the extension of paid maternity and paternity leave and the introduction of Working Tax Credits (WTC). Though these policies have partly successful, they have been largely confined to the public sector and larger private sector employers (The Equalities Review, 2007: online), and could be improved. Low wages at work combined with the fact that WTC does not cover the full costs of childcare costs means that many mothers are financially disadvantaged when...