On connaît depuis longtemps la formule « A travail égal, salaire égal ». Quelle en est la véritable signification ? Quelles objections lui apporte-t-on ? Quels arguments militent en sa faveur ? L'auteur qui a déjà publié une remarquable étude intitulée « Problèmes du Travail féminin » expose ici son point de vue sur ces questions qui intéressent non seulement le quart de la main-d'oeuvre non agricole du Canada, mais encore toute notre société.
Fair Remuneration for Women Workers
For decades, "Equal pay for equal work" has been a widely used formula. What is its true significance? What are the objections against it and the arguments in its favour? The author, who has already published a remarkable study entitled "Problems of Women Workers" gives his point of view on these questions which are of interest, not only to one-quarter of the non-agricultural Labour force in Canada, but to all our society as well.
In Canada alone, more than a million women are now working outside their homes. This situation creates an ever-increasing number of problems, both important and complex. First of all, the question of wages for female labour is closely related to the general wage structure and theory. It consists in practice of an attempt to balance production and consumption by increasing the standard of living in proportion to the productive capacity of the workers of both sexes.
As long as this balance is not reached, neither society by its labour legislation or social security system, nor the labour movement, by its pressure and activities, will succeed in placing women on an equal basis with men on the labour market and thus eliminate the discrimination against women.
"Equal pay for equal work" might be stated also as "Equal remuneration between male and female labour for work of equal value". It is understood that women's work is paid less than men's. In fact, there seems to exist two labour markets, one for men and another one for women. On one hand, men consider quite often women's salary as a kind of "extra" to help the head of the family; on the other hand, the women, in a majority, have a tendency to accept a lower wage and, as a whole, have a weaker bargaining position than men. In spite of this, the author tries to find a fair basis of remuneration which may be applied equally to men and women.
He looks at three possible methods of determining the equality or inequality of wages between them. First, the comparative output of men and women may apply where both are employed at identical work, the value of which is determined by an estimate of the feminine output compared with the masculine output. Definite cases are shown to better illustrate this. The formula is an emergency one; it is by no means adequate. The second method: the relative value of female labour as related to production costs. This standard applies where women replace men or carry out the same tasks. The current arguments to support this method are quoted and criticized: women require supplementary supervision, additional help; it would be necessary to establish different standards, lower production schedules: women, being weaker physically, are subject to more frequent absenteeism; their professional life is shorter; for the welfare of female workers, legislation imposes and might further impose new standards; the employer may have to adopt special measures and particular installations, medical and sanitary services, cloak-rooms, cafeterias, etc. No such arguments should be used, the relevance of which cannot be mathematically determined. Employers are urged to be very careful about using them arbitrarily. The third method is that of the objective and scientific rating of jobs. Actually, this formula means: time and motion study and job evaluation. The time and motion study tries to find the best method of doing a specified task and attempts to get the workers to be able and willing to give their maximum output. Job evaluation establishes the relationship required and accordingly brings about differences in wages. It includes an analysis, a description and a relative evaluation of the task itself: the technique is in its infancy, has many limitations which have first to be acknowledged and corrected; but there seems to be no alternative to it.
The author concludes that the application of the principle "Equal pay for equal work", in the case of female labour, seems to be a highly desirable objective, on moral and economic grounds both for women, for men and society as a whole. In spite of equal pay for equal work, women must remain feminine, even at -work; their value is a specific one; their dignity requires an appropriate remuneration.