NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 17, 2006

Over the past 60 years, the country has seen a dramatic change in women in the workforce, says Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal.

For example:

  • In 1950, fewer than 12 percent of women with children under the age of six were in the workforce, and two-thirds of households were "traditional," meaning the man went to work and the woman stayed home.
  • Today, both spouses work in nearly two-thirds of married couples, and 60 percent of women with children under the age of six are working.

Yet despite these numbers, the government has largely ignored the fact that its workforce has dramatically changed, says Strassel. Many of our current laws and institutions that govern economic behavior were designed at a time when women didn't work, forcing them to overcome obstacles such as:

  • A tax system that instantly puts a woman into her husband's tax bracket.
  • Workplace inflexibility -- such as requiring that hourly workers who put in more than 40 hours must be paid overtime, despite the fact that many would prefer flexible arrangements.
  • A tax law that makes employees dependent on their employers for benefits, forcing women working part time or for small companies that don't offer them, to purchase their own benefits with after-tax dollars.
  • Social Security, which is geared to one-earner families, is generous to women who don't work, paying a benefit equal to half their husband's. But the woman who spends her entire life paying into the system could find she receives not much more than if she'd never worked at all.

The solutions here aren't more rules or higher taxes, but free-market reforms that would serve everyone -- in particular women, says Strassel. We need a fairer tax system, flexible labor and benefits laws, unshackled benefits, fairer tax relief, and Social Security reform, namely private accounts.

Source: Kimberley Strassel, "Make My (Mother's) Day . . ." Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2006.

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