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New Left Review I/26, July-August 1964


Women’s Wages

In 1960, realizing that ‘National insurance had been running more and more “into the red”’, the government introduced the Graduated Pensions Scheme. Based on the accumulation of annually increasing contributions from employer and employee this provides a built-in discrimination against all women earning between £10 and £15 a week. With a compulsory retirement age five years lower than that for men (although their longevity is roughly five years higher) women automatically qualify for a smaller pension. Of course the majority of working women are saved from this discrimination as they earn below the £9 p.w. wage at which graduated pensions start. The average industrial wage for women is only £8. 8s. 3d.—exactly half that for men. Women are rarely available for overtime which accounts for part of the discrepancy. Why not? Presumably they are engaged in housework. If all the housework done in this country were paid for at the normal ‘cleaning’ rate for an eight-hour day, it would cost at least £4,500 million per annum, more-or-less a quarter of the entire national income.

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