Men’s ability to ‘overwork’ widens wage gap

"Employers often expect undivided attention, loyalty, and time commitments from their employees. In some cases, employees compete over who can put in the most hours," Kim Weeden explains. (Credit: Sasamon Rattanalangkarn/Flickr)

Employers are paying more per hour to workers—and men in particular—who are willing and able to put in exceptionally long workweeks.

“Women—even highly educated women—still spend far more time than men on housework and child care,” says Kim Weeden, co-author of a forthcoming article in American Sociological Review.

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“Today’s men are spending more time with their children than their fathers did. But the gender gap in core housework—cooking, cleaning, other day-to-day tasks—hasn’t changed much in the past 25 years,” Weeden explains. “These dynamics in the household carry over into a gender gap in who puts in long work hours.”

Twenty-first century “overworkers,” those working 50 hours or more a week at a single job, are concentrated in the so-called “greedy occupations,” such as doctors, lawyers, even academics.

“Employers often expect undivided attention, loyalty, and time commitments from their employees. In some cases, employees compete over who can put in the most hours,” Weeden explains.

“Just as college students boast about pulling all-nighters, employees in greedy occupations may boast about putting in long hours.”

Yet not all workers today can overwork, even if they want to. People who work long hours at a single job are less common in today’s workforce than people who would like to work more hours at their job but don’t have the opportunity.

“With the decline of manufacturing, the growth of the service sector, and the waning power of unions,” Weeden says, “there are fewer opportunities for lower-skilled workers to earn overtime or a living wage at just one job.”

Low wage workers—particularly service workers, the majority of whom are women—have to “cobble together multiple part-time or full-time low-paying jobs, and work longer hours overall, to have the same inflation-adjusted income as workers of a bygone era.”

Source: Cornell University