Pay Inequality in Oregon: A New Report

Pay-Inequality-Oregon-Cover-Web-231x300The Oregon Council on Civil Rights has just released their report exploring the wage gap between men and women in Oregon.

Their findings show that while Oregon’s current workplace policies and practices have helped lower the wage gap below the national average (where women earn 77 cents for every $1.00 earned by men), Oregon women still make more than 20% less than Oregon men, on average.  For women of color, the wage gap is more than 40 cents per dollar.

How is that Oregon — and the nation at large — still have such a long way to go?  From the report:

The “second shift” of housework and family care falls more frequently to women than men. motherhood and povertyWomen are less likely than men to have access to paid sick time and paid family leave and are more likely to need that time to take care of a child or other family member. Women take home  less income, are less likely to earn raises and promotions at the same pace, earn fewer retirement benefits, and accumulate lower lifetime wealth. [Yet…] two thirds of working women are the primary or co-breadwinners in their families. Pay inequality impacts adults and children who depend on women’s incomes.

While the social injustice is more than alarming enough [Ed: I’m sorry, isn’t this 2014? Are we seriously not  being paid equal wages for equal work yet? The Federal Equal Pay Act was passed fifty years ago!], the economic impacts should cause concern for everyone across the broad spectrum of political beliefs. When women are paid less for equal or comparable work, it brings overall household wages down. And for single working mothers, that’s a deep impact: About 1/3 of single working mothers are living below the poverty line.

The Oregon Council on Civil Rights’ report points to several policy changes Oregon could undertake to address this issue, including:

  • Paid Leave: expanding paid sick leave, creating a statewide paid family leave insurance program, and supporting leave tim for child-related activities
  • Safe, affordable childcare: Expanding ERDC (employment related day care), and extending tax credits for childcare
  • Oregon Paycheck Fairness Act: Providing protections against discrimination and retaliation
  • And others, including increasing minimum wage

Further, the council recommends, Oregon should increase outreach, public awareness, and partnerships with employers and private sector leaders; provide more educational and occupational opportunities; and provide employer incentives and workplace best practices.

These recommendations have now been sent to Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) Commissioner Brad Avakian, who is tasked with developing proposals to address the issues identified in the report. Avakian told the Statesman Journal that no proposals will be submitted in time for the 2014 legislative session– which starts Monday and lasts just 35 days– but that BOLI will begin working to develop “a set of recommendations that works for the business community and the labor force.”

Read the full report: Pay Inequality in Oregon.

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