From the TUC

Daily Mail repeats anti-women guff from TPA

09 Dec 2010, by in Equality, Labour market, Society & Welfare, Working Life

The Daily Mail is well known as a womens’ newspaper. Only it and the Daily Express have more women readers than men (- and one suspects the latter has more to do with the fact that its male readers are dying  quicker than its female readers.)

Yet they happily parrot a deeply anti-woman line from the Tax Payers’ Alliance when they report that workers in the private sector are “working harder” than those in the public sector.

But “working harder” is not the same as working longer. Many part-time workers work extremely hard – and as most are women it seems the TPA, and the Daily Mail – are calling them lazy.  They may work fewer hours, but part-timers are paid less too. There’s nothing wrong with that. (In any case, the figures they use are for paid hours. Doing unpaid who overtime may be an even better measure of working hard and it is predominantly public sector education job-holders regularly top our league table for this.)

But what about full time workers?

The figure used by the TPA comes from from the new official pay stats published yesterday. These include a figure for the average number of paid hours worked by full-timers, and the figures are derived from Table 13.9a. They show a median of 37 hours for the public sector and 38.9 for the private sector.

I suppose we should be grateful that they are using figures for full-time rather than all workers (as there are proportionately many more part-time jobs in the public sector than the private) and that they use a median rather than a mean.

But all these figures show is that there are more flexible jobs in the public sector then the private sector, and also  depend to some extent on how you define full-time. I’m guessing that ONS have chosen 30 hours. This is inevitably arbitrary

A more detailed analysis of the gender breakdown of the figures  gives us a richer picture.

The first clue is in the decile ranges for hours. For the public sector the 10 per cent (bottom decile) range is 32.5 (ie 10 per cent of workers do fewer hours and 90 per cent do more), while for the private sector it’s 35 hours per week.

But 32.5 hours  – 6.5 hours a day – is not a traditional standard full time working week. It’s  a flexible job opportunity, clearly attractive to those with caring responsibilities. The gender breakdown proves that these are mainly taken by women. The bottom decile for men in both sectors is almost identical at 34.9 for public and 35 for women, while there’s a two and a half hour difference for women.

Even more convincing is the gender breakdown overall. For women, median hours are almost the same in private (37.5) and public (37) sectors.

The difference in overall working hours is among men where the median is 37.2 in the public sector and 39.8 in the private sector. 

I wouldn’t dispute that there are more long hours jobs in the private sector. But is this a good thing?

The Daily Mail have long stirred the argument that it is unfair that private sector workers get worse pensions than those in the public sector with an intent to stir up jealousy among private sector staff – even though slashing public sector pensions does nothing to make pensions better in the private sector.

Indeed the switch to CPI indexation that started in the public sector – and cheered by the usual suspects – is now robbing private sector pensioners of increases they were expecting.

But can the Mail use the same argument against women friendly employment practices in the public sector?

The Mail admits that this difference in hours is important:

For many parents with young children, this is the difference between getting home in time to put them to bed, and missing those precious moments entirely.

But does the Mail now want to deprive the children of public sector workers of being put to bed by their parents? Are they expecting private sector workers to join a great crusade against flexible working in the public sector?

I suspect their readers – particularly women working in the private sector – are more likely to say that they would like some of that too.

The Mail might think that part time workers are lazy and that flexible working is a bad idea that stops hard work (despite the evidence that it does the opposite), but I doubt that a majority of their women readers – and perhaps even their women journalists – agree.

And I really can’t be bothered to go through again why comparing public sector and private sector pay rates makes no sense when the public sector workforce is full of graduate professionals and low-paid unskilled jobs have moved to the private sector.

One Response to Daily Mail repeats anti-women guff from TPA

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    Dec 9th 2010, 3:43 pm

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