Do women "not needing to work" but happily taking low paid term time jobs affect women's pay

(52 Posts)
kim147 Sun 16-Jun-13 23:12:41

There's a thread on chat about TAs at the moment. TA jobs in school are poorly paid but they do suit childcare arrangements.

Several people have said that they are well qualified but happily take these jobs despite the low pay because they "don't really need the money" but it is convenient for childcare.

If it's a skilled job requiring good education, shouldn't it be rewarded?
Or is the issue that employers know such jobs are sought after because it's very handy for childcare so they can pay shit and know there will be applicants.

Startail Sun 16-Jun-13 23:40:23

I think there are other rewards to money.

I suspect many of the mum's and at least one dad (and probably others on the quiet) trade money for quality of life.

Living in a MC commuter area, I know some and suspect far more, of the mums are graduates doing jobs way below what they trained for.

Yes local business are getting well qualified staff on the cheap, but I suspect many of them honestly couldn't afford to pay the going rate a city firm could.

The overheads in travel and child care mean for many a better paid job doesn't leave them better off and a big impersonal firm looses them the flexibility to come to school events and start/finish in time to do the school run.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 17-Jun-13 10:09:36

I think this is simply about devaluing childcare, TBH. They may not need the pay but they need the flexibility for childcare. Therefore childcare plus TAing is devalued.

badguider Mon 17-Jun-13 10:21:34

I work in culture and heritage - where a huge number of the workforce are qualified with more than one degree, often to phd level in their specialism and yet work for not a whole lot more than the NMW and usually less than the UK average wage.

So, overqualified people of either sex doing jobs they are underpaid for is a BIG issue but I don't believe it's one to do with women alone or 'term-time' jobs alone.

Many people choose to struggle in low paid jobs for the love of them. IMO the issue is the over-inflation of pay in other sectors and ridiculous bonuses to the few that push up prices for the many.

Youhaventseenme Mon 17-Jun-13 10:25:34

I most definitely do not need to work, but I work two hours a day as a dinner lady, I do it for my mental well being.

schooldidi Mon 17-Jun-13 10:28:18

I agree with badguider, I have a lot of friends who are just as intelligent as me, have just as good qualifications as me, yet are struggling along in low paid jobs. Some have taken these low paid jobs since having children so they can have the flexibility for childcare, others just love the job they do even though it is undervalued.

My dp is one of these people, he has a very good degree that could get him a job that pays well, in fact he has just done a month's trial for a much better paid job but has gone back to the old low paid job because it is more flexible and the work is, to him, more interesting. I'm happy with that because it means he's at home more to take a bigger share of the childcare and housework.

It's not just about not needing the money though, is it?

If I can take a 12k job that doesn;t need any childcare, I'm going to be better off than if I take a £20k job and have to pay 12k a year for a childminder/nursery.

Startail Mon 17-Jun-13 11:01:45

Here your talking £4-5000 pa for a school schoaged DC, but also £5-10 a day extra for petrol, parking, lunch etc. plus smart clothes.

Startail Mon 17-Jun-13 11:04:14

sorry wrong button.
That's another £1-2000.

ok.I might save £100 or so in oil truning the heating off and I use some petrol running about finding things to stay sane, but working doesnt come cheap.

Startail Mon 17-Jun-13 11:05:15

sorry Kindle spell checking has died blush

Interesting thread. I haven't worked for the last 2 years but, when my youngest starts at state funded nursery in September, will return to freelancing. The only way I can guarantee work in an increasingly competitive market is to cut my fees to account for the savings I'll be making by not paying for childcare.

I do worry that I'll be working for less than I'm 'worth' though and may be stuck working for this sum even after I no longer need childcare.

I need to work both financially and for my own fulfilment though and, given the current competition in my field and the fact my contacts are somewhat outdated, I see no other option.

nerofiend Mon 17-Jun-13 15:54:55

I think these jobs are devalued because they're done and needed by women, not because they're lesser jobs in themselves.

Men are very good at protecting what they're good at, say plumbing, builders and decorators etc etc. These jobs are not done by highly academic people, but they're done by men who can obviuosly work full time or long hours as they don't consider childcare their main responsibility in life. So having a family will not affect the amount of hours they can devote to the job.

Women are not to blame that these jobs are badly paid. It's society, the macho culture that devalues everything that a woman is good at, and therefore pays them less.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 17-Jun-13 16:10:21

nero - absolutely agree.

Although, I do think there is a class issue here that needs acknowledging. The three jobs you mention as non-academic and typically male jobs are quite well paid it's true, but what about binmen etc.? There are 'male' jobs that are also really difficult to make a living from, because class comes into it as well as gender.

cogitosum Wed 19-Jun-13 10:44:30

I don't think binmen are actually badly paid. I think median is around £25,000 and mean £36,000. I know that was only one example but actually it's hard to think of a traditionally 'male' job that is badly paid like the traditionally 'female' jobs like childcare, TAs etc.

thecatfromjapan Wed 19-Jun-13 14:06:44

I completely agree with what Eleanor said.

kim147, I'm sure you didn't mean to, but I think that the way you've phrased the thread title is sailing close to the wind of being quite ... dodgy.

I'm old enough to remember articles in newspapers in which men argued that women shouldn't be allowed into certain trades because they were only working for "pin money" and would lower the rates of pay for men - who were working to earn money for the family. [hmmm]

That was all prior to the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. But that really was a very respectable discourse and it was used to exclude women from areas of paid work AS WELL AS to justify women being corralled in areas of low pay/no pay.

I honestly think Eleanor has it. And the issue is actually one of (I used this phrase just a minute ago - it must be a day for it) Structural Discrimination.

It goes like this: you are the person who has primary responsibility for the children. You probably earn a little less than your (male) partner when you have those children. Childcare costs a lot, so you - the smidgeon less well-paid partner, or the partner who will compromise - compromise and fiddle around with your job to come to some arrangement whereby you are squaring the childcare costs-working-eating-living circle. The gap between the two partners' pay increases. Amazingly!! things don't get easier when the children get into school - they get harder.

Next thing you know, you have a very good degree, a whole load of other qualifications, and you are pleading to be considered for a £7,000 p.a. job that lists an NVQ as its main qualification. But the competition is fierce because ... there are lots of women in that position.

the real question is: what they hell is going on that we are doing this to our women/children/etc.? Why on earth can't we share out the jobs that exist (and their wages) a little more equitably?

thecatfromjapan Wed 19-Jun-13 14:08:14

... and i agree with nero. isn't there some kind of research that demonstrates that - in terms of professions/jobs - prestige and wages will decrease in proportion to the numbers of women taking those jobs up?

kim147 Wed 19-Jun-13 17:13:49

I was trying to think about the title. Basically there was a thread about TAs and there were several people saying "they didn't need to work". But they took the job anyway and were more than well qualified for it.

It was a bit frustrating as there are plenty of people who do need to work but if you have even more people applying for a job, you can offer a lower wage as you've got a lot of competition. So the market is distorted.

But childcare jobs are also badly paid. It just got me thinking about the effect of people "who say they don't need to work" have on a market where people do need to work.

learnasyougo Wed 19-Jun-13 17:26:26

I live in Brighton and although it's an expensive part of the UK to live, the wages for all manner of jobs are below the national average (jobs such as retail managers, so not just jobs that tend to be taken by women). This is because many people have a partner who works in London (so they can afford the Brighton property costs) and then a partner who wants to work locally. It's gold dust to have a job in Brighton (especially term time only) so people will accept lower pay (since they are subsidised by the London-working partner anyway) in order to be 'lucky' enough to live in Brighton.

So yes, if you have enough people who value a job for other things than its salary (location, hours, flexibility) then wages are driven down. I don't think it is just because it's work associated with women (although historically the 'family wage' that men were expected to earn did mean women didn't rely on their wages to keep the wolf from the door. Those days are long gone and yet attitudes persist).

TheYamiOfYawn Wed 19-Jun-13 20:25:57

Before I had children (7 years ago) I worked in a job in a bookshop that paid £6.15 per hour. I have a first class degree and several postgraduate professional qualifications. Most of my colleagues (many a rung below me on the ladder, and so on worse pay) had more than one degree. The woman who shelved the books in the religion section had a PhD in theology. The guy selling DVDs had a masters in film studies, the guy in the art section had a masters in art and so on. It's not unusual - your local independent cinema will be staffed by film graduates, the guy who takes your money at the museum probably had a masters in history or curating, the waitress at your cafe is fitting her hours around her PhD, the receptionist at the hotel is fitting the hours around her kids and the guy behind the bar in the pub is earning enough money to pay the bills until his publishing business takes off or his inventions go into production. It's not unusual in the slightest for very well qualified people to work for very low pay.

Snog Wed 19-Jun-13 20:35:20

All women need to work - some just don't know it!
Women are absolutely not to blame for low wages - I find this beyond ridiculous and woman bashing

intheshed Wed 19-Jun-13 20:56:29

The only reason these women don't "need to work" in most cases is because they have a husband or partner who earns more than them. Are you suggesting that women should not bother to carry on working once they have children if their husbands earn enough to support the family? It all sounds very 1950s.

I am a TA and I guess we don't "need" the money- in that if DH lost his job we would be on the streets, whereas if I lost my job we would just have to tighten our belts a little. But I work for so much more than the lousy pay I get- I enjoy the work, it is fulfilling and I like to think I make a difference. It also allows me to spend time with my children in the holidays, which I very much enjoy. What is wrong with that?

On a separate note I do think the TA profession and jobs in childcare in general are underpaid and undervalued in society.

kim147 Wed 19-Jun-13 21:31:22

" Are you suggesting that women should not bother to carry on working once they have children if their husbands earn enough to support the family? "

No - I'm just repeating the words that were used on the threads. Some (and I use the word "some" ) people said they do not need to work.

From a purely economic view (and not from the other benefits of work which are obviously clear), there are loads of people applying for TA posts compared to the posts available. Many of these are likely to be from women who most likely do need the work as they need the income and it is a family friendly job. There are probably some applicants who "do not need the money" (in their opinion) but want the other things work can bring.

Is this fair or is it just life? BTW this is not a 1950s you should be a housewife if your husband earns enough thread. I'm trying to tread carefully.

I'm trying to think of a way this would affect males just to balance it out.

Maybe the question is - is it fair on others to apply for a job if your family is doing ok whilst other applicants desperately need that work? Or is the security of a job and the fact you're working important?

Does the fact that people may not be too bothered about the money but just want to do something cause lower wages which has an impact on those who actually need the job for love and money?

And I agree childcare and TA is grossly underpaid.

scallopsrgreat Wed 19-Jun-13 21:40:53

I agree with the others I am afraid Kim - the title of the thread is women blaming which is why I haven't commented on it so far.

I am not sure why you are looking at this singling out women who don't "need" to work. Plenty of men don't need to work and they distort the market far more.

kim147 Wed 19-Jun-13 21:45:20

It was just a reaction to the comments people made on the TA thread. I know plenty of TAs who struggle and desperately need the work so it just got me wondering when people said they didn't need to work.

It's not meant to be women blaming so apologies for it coming over that way.

It's just crap that such an important job is badly paid.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Wed 19-Jun-13 21:47:25

cogito - huh. Wow. I picked that out of thin air, so ouch.

Tortington Wed 19-Jun-13 21:48:27

if you dont need the money....
fucking well volunteer somewhere to feel useful

FreyaSnow Wed 19-Jun-13 21:55:12

I think the reason why it came up is because whenever there is discussion of women vs. class, examples given of class are usually of poor men are often jobs like bin men, building site professions etc, so it is quite common for people to assume those are the 'working class' 'the poor' 'the disadvantaged' etc.

But of course the real poorly paid jobs are mostly done by women.

timidviper Wed 19-Jun-13 21:56:28

Surely it's not blaming the women though, it's blaming those in authority who manipulate that situation to play lower wages.

I work in a professional role and, as the proportion of women in the profession has risen, the wages have fallen. Those women are not worth less than the men, in fact some studies suggest they outperform them, so why have wages dipped if not sexism?

thecatfromjapan Wed 19-Jun-13 21:57:45

kim147 - I have been thinking quite a bit about all this. It's interesting. It's a shame that motherhood indirectly caused me to fuck up my would-be career as an academic, because I would love to do some real, recognised, remunerated research on this. And then have my opinions respected as those of a professional ... but that's another thread! wink

Anyway, I reckon: "I don't have to work" is shorthand for a whole load of stuff. Some of this "stuff" is, I think (and this is just my opinion) experience, emotions, half-formed thoughts, intuitions, that don't actually have a solid language yet. It's hard to put it into words.

Some of it is obvious: I don't need to work for financial reasons - in that we won't starve if I don't - but if I don't work I will a. go mad b. feel like a non-person c. cry d. never get back into the work-force again when I finally get a chance to.

some of it is more complicated (I think): I don't need to work ... because I was completely screwed by society's current construction of parenthood, and that "I don't need to work" actually doesn't feel like a luxury, it feels like I have been pushed and coerced in ways that I didn't even recognise at the time.

I don't need to work because, actually, other people's needs come first, are more pressing, than this feeling that I have that I would like to work, and be paid, and be valued as someone other than a mother - which, actually, is less valued than it should be. And when I say other people's needs come first, that sort of means that if I tried to get a really well-paid job/career, somehow everyone else would have to start doing the stuff i do, and it would be painful for them, and we;d have to pay, and it still wouldn't be done well, so ... I don't need that enough ....

And then there is something ... I don't know ... rebellious? Parents voting with their labour and saying that working long hours, for all the money in the world, is a bit crap if you lose your life ... who knows. Maybem instead of seeing this as a regressive step (causing low wages) we might read it as a signpost to the revolution?

Anyway - I don't know. I find mumsnet interesting precisely because I think people talk here about things that just aren;t much discussed yet. And with enormous insight and honesty.

If I were a researching, I would be gently probing women in interviews to find out exactly what that phrase "I don't need to work" actually means. I think it is something quite different from "I have a wealthy husband and lie on the sofa eating white peaches." I think it is more about weighing "needs" against "wants" - and how the difference between those is structured, and how they are weighed, is not just gendered, but ... parented???? (Is that a word?)

Genuinely, I don;t like the idea of blaming women for low wages. It's just not a path I think any of us wants to take. It's a spiral to nowhere.

What;s more, it is bizarre when you think of how many people, men and women, are earning low wages anyway, which are subsidised (for now) by the state. An enormous subsidy for employers.

As for T.A. work: I feel your pain. I'm looking for T.A. work and it is very, very sought after.

NotDead Wed 19-Jun-13 21:59:48

I think there is something in this - at least historically I worked for a uni where when I started in 2003 there was a club for 'wives of avademics' . yes really.

'traditionally' admin jobs were given ss perks to the wives who had to move because of their 'husbands' career - again yes in 2003. At functions wives were given flowers by a junior female admin etc etc. This is a Russel Group institution.

I heard several times that people in junior admin or technical roles.. again often considered 'wives of academic' roles..'don't want a career -its pin money'

it was awful but explaimed to me why even complex managerial roles were considered 'just admin' people still talked fondly of 'girls in the typing pool'

I was even instructed not to employ a 'boy' in an admin role because 'boys are unreliable'. admin work was that gendered. Female academics were.. when I left in 2010 expected by senior academics to take minutes, do disproportionate admin tasks and make tea.. though thankfully this got kicked on its arse by several people but it still got requested.

The point being that admin roles and 'soft' technical roles eg lab assistant, demonstrator, event scheduler etc were lower paid precisely because tgey weren't 'career jobs' they were 'help the male academic salary stretch by employing his wife' jobs and are still stuck with that legacy because '% age pay increases are 'fair' (are they buggery)

needless to say that when I joined a union that represented these grades and started campaigning for admin roles to have the recognition they deserved, I was 'made redundant'. not surprisingly as the implications for costs are high.. and this is in an institution that fakes statistics to have has several awards for female-friendly work environment.

FreyaSnow Wed 19-Jun-13 22:01:01

People going in to be TAs is also caused by making childcare difficult to arrange and expensive around other jobs. I've worked in a job where it would have made no difference whatsoever to what I did at work or the running of the company if I did 20 plus hours over 5 days 10-3, but they insisted part time workers did 9-5.30 over 3 days.

scallopsrgreat Wed 19-Jun-13 22:02:58

Tell that to Charles Saatchi Custardo. Please. grin

I agree Kim it is shit that such an important job is paid so low. It isn't because some women do the work when they don't "need" the money. It is because it is a female role. as cogitosum says where are the really low paid male jobs?

I must admit I thought that a lot of TA jobs were done by people wanting to become teachers rather than women not "needing" money.

And I am putting "need" in quotations because men are never referred to in these terms and there is a lot more to paid work that just the money. Women are as entitled to that as men.

kim147 Wed 19-Jun-13 22:03:08

School I was at had 164 applicants for 1 post.

It's sought after - but poorly paid.

scallopsrgreat Wed 19-Jun-13 22:05:31

In fact thecatfromjapan has explained really well my problem with talking about women in terms of not needing money.

FreyaSnow Wed 19-Jun-13 22:07:05

How good an education do you need to be a TA? I thought you didn't need a degree but lots of TAs do have degrees because most graduates have to take non-graduate work anyway.

kim147 Wed 19-Jun-13 22:10:06

That was also interesting - there was a wide range of people who had degrees, some were ex teachers and some who had a TA qualification and no degree.

NotDead Wed 19-Jun-13 22:11:02

also -get this - when I started admin wss aboyt 50-50 male to female with men in senior roles. a new senior administrator started who set about downgrading the roles and aggressively recruiting women to fill them - of course this was claimed to be 'having a pro-women recruiting environment' but the idea was to have less challenging people to manage (haha more fool him!) .In fact this led to a laughably gendered workplace with all 'support' roles female- which has the annoying effect ofmaking female acadmics look like 'the office girls' helpef by an all male senior committee ( now changed to make sure an award was won).

in 5 years this senior admin had an all female admin environment bar one.. and in 7 an all female environment. Roles that had been grades 7 and 8 with male staff were now being run by female staff on grades 4 -6.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Wed 19-Jun-13 22:11:38

Great post, thecat.

FreyaSnow Wed 19-Jun-13 22:12:04

Who does need a job? We have a benefits system where if you don't get a job they will give you benefits in exchange for having to work for no wage in Tesco or similar place. It's a corrupt system but if you are able-bodied it won't actually kill you.

People go out to work for a vast range of different reasons. All this seems to be dangerously close to saying that married women whose husbands at least have a middle income should be staying at home so their are jobs for people who need them more.

kim147 Wed 19-Jun-13 22:12:46

What I've noticed is a lot of these positions demand a lot, especially in terms of qualifications and also knowledge / skills but pay fuck all.

I've also looked at other jobs outside of teaching - many office jobs - which also pay fuck all with respect to the skills and qualifications expected for the post.

SamanthaJones Wed 19-Jun-13 22:17:16

Great posts catinJapan

SamanthaJones Wed 19-Jun-13 22:17:44

Catfromjapan, sorry

thecatfromjapan Wed 19-Jun-13 22:20:17

NotDead - that is depressing, and chimes with what timidviper is saying.

I may have to step away from this thread because it's a bit too "real" at the moment. sad

FreyaSnow Wed 19-Jun-13 22:22:24

Kim, what I've found a problem with it is that I've worked places where they insist that the job is not a graduate role, then demoralise people by saying getting their degree was a waste of time, school of life, not skills required here etc. But at the same time when they hire a non-graduate who then doesn't have graduate level skills like complex report writing etc they are very critical that the person doesn't have those skills and isn't up to the job.

They should be honest that those are graduate jobs, but concede that some non-graduates get those same skills through other routes in work and so can do the job, and pay accordingly.

intheshed Wed 19-Jun-13 22:54:37

So, if a couple both earn a decent wage, get together and end up on a massive joint income, should one of them automatically give up their job because they don't "need" to work??

Should jobs be allocated by merit or by need?

NotDead Wed 19-Jun-13 22:58:15

agree totally with freyja.. I have worked in a traditional ly 'female' role that needed reporting analysis strategic awareness and negotiation/ problem solving.. the original spec said you needed two gcse minimum. You were also expected to ' be aware and empathetic of the student experience'.. somebody didn't look up 'empathetic!'

LaFataTurchina Wed 19-Jun-13 23:04:33

Maybe not everyone wants to get stuck in the commuter grind/rat race though?

I'm just coming to the end of my MA (and have other qualifications, experience bla ba etc) and am job hunting ..... one hand hand I have 'career' jobs and a hellish commute into London and on the other hand I could be a TA (my MAs in education), help kids, have the holidays off and be home for 5pm.

I'm willing to make the salary sacrifice for a more relaxed lifestyle, and I don't even have children yet.

NotDead Wed 19-Jun-13 23:05:21

just a point btw about applications expressing demand.There I a falsehood that you maximise ypur chances of getting a job by appapplying at thr lowest level. The government via the jobcentre an employment services ans SERCO perpetuate this myth.. well actuallythey enforce application below yyour saleble level and insist you apply at thr bottom.. thereby decreasing your likelihood of being employed.

This is one reason people apply to be TAs when really they should be applying to private schools as part time teachers or applying for something more educational outside thr classroom..but few employers have jobs that fit so exactly with school hours..or more accuratelythat people can easily imagine fit with schoolhours. I fact late night work, macdonalds et al, some banks ( who need peak counter staff from 12-3 ) and many town centre shops (lunchtime shopping) can also have positions like this.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Wed 19-Jun-13 23:06:55

It's not just TAs, is it? Plenty of education jobs have rotten pay. They know they have people over a barrel.

(Look at these for example - some of them don't even pay, and you'd need 7 years of training minimum after 18 to get one:

So I do think focussing on TAs being low paid is missing a bigger point about education jobs and about how little you can afford to pay people if you know they will compete for it.

BadSkiingMum Thu 20-Jun-13 07:23:48

It is also interesting to think about the patterns around volunteering.

The national breastfeeding support organisations largely rely on trained volunteers, to support on what is perceived as a women's issue, but yet which affects male and female people as babies.

Also the idea that: woman largely at home = woman who is happy to work for no pay.

ShakingSultana Thu 20-Jun-13 09:32:00

kim147 I understood what you meant by the thread title. It is a very interesting area, especially considering some of the other factors people have mentioned alongside salary such as hours, flexibility, being near the children etc.

As someone said upthread, this problem comes about when the lower earner (usually the woman) sacrifices their career for the family. Why are women usually the lower earners in the first place? Do women tend to marry people with a higher earning power, or could it be that women tend to be the younger partner in a relationship and therefore less established in their career compared to their partner?

Such a terrible shame that work in education isn't valued properly.

badguider Thu 20-Jun-13 10:33:54

The 'lower earner' in a relationship may not be less successful or less established in their career - they may just be in a different field.

I work in a job that 'makes a difference', I do it because I love it and I'm very good at it. I have won awards and am well known in my field. I am very successful.
I earn about 2/3 of what my DH earns in a corporate/professional industry where he's done reasonably well and gained promotion to director level but is not outstanding (his job doesn't really allow for outstanding individuals).

I know that in our case DH was exposed to old-fashioned ideas from his estranged father about what makes a "man's-job" and what "success" looks like at an early age and chose his degree to lead to his current profession which he tolerates. He is motivated by his salary because the job itself is a bit of a grind. I was encouraged to follow my interests and dreams, I don't mind earning a bit less (still a reasonable salary) because I love the process and outcomes of what I do.

I suspect we are not alone in that our division of motivation between money vs. job/life satisfaction is along gendered lines... and I see TAs as being on the job/life satisfaction of the fence. Maybe there are lots of men who would love to be on our side of the fence but they don't feel they can be as it's 'not manly'.. so they're as trapped as the women who want to be the main breadwinners are.

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