I hate to use the term “war on women.” It is inflammatory and seems to imply that there is a movement about to systematically strip women of their accomplishments and status in American society and drop them off at Gitmo. But because the politician
s and the media have used it so nonchalantly as of late, I feel compelled to use the term for for reference. Indeed, in light of what really happens to women in some other countries, the war on women is a bit heavy-handed in defining society’s treatment of women in America.
Women have made great strides over the past several decades, equaling and even outpacing men in the areas of high school graduation rates, attainment of bachelors’ degrees and the labor force participation rate. President Obama has stated that he wants to help working women, but ironically, many of the things that would really help working women (actually, all women, no matter what endeavor they choose and yes, raising children is full-time work) have mere or no mention in his re-election campaign. Let’s take a look at the issues that are much less talked about:
Worried about becoming disabled? Women are disadvantaged by a bizarre Social Security insurance system that punishes them for exiting and re-entering the labor force (see the NCPA publication). Women are more likely to take years off from work to raise children. When they re-enter the workforce they may or may not qualify for disability in the Social Security system, even if they accrued SS benefits in previous working years.
Concerned about having enough for your retirement? Women
are more likely to work part-time or for a firm that does not offer a 401(k) plan. Sure, they have the option of saving into a traditional or Roth IRA account, regardless of their employment status. But the annual contribution limit on these accounts is $5,000 in 2012 ($6,000 for people age 50 and over). Compare this to the annual contribution limit for an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan of $17,000 (plus an additional $5,500 for those age 50 and over). Thus, many women are limited in how much they can sock away for retirement.
Would you like to start your own business? Good luck. It’s not easy. Women are largely responsible for the growth in small businesses that provide services.
- Women comprise about three-fourths of all salon owners and employees. Most of them are independent operators who rent their own space.
- Women own or work in 95 percent of child care facilities.
- Almost two-thirds of home-based businesses are owned by women. Women are more likely to produce or sell a tangible good out of their home, (such as crafts or food products, or personal care items), while men are more likely to provide a clerical service.
While onerous and burdensome regulations and
requirements make it tough for both male and female business owners to operate, women are especially hit hard. Nail technicians, home bakers, child care providers, and many other female-dominant self-employment industries must comply with myriads of costly regulations, licensing requirements and so forth. Most of these are at the state and local level, of course, but it bares mentioning that the “war on women” takes place at all levels of government.
Think you’re not earning enough? You may be paying a higher share of your income in taxes than your spouse if you are a secondary wage earner. Your income on a “married filing jointly” tax return may bump you into a higher marginal tax bracket than a single worker earning the same amount. It makes no difference if your annual income is $15,000 or $50,000. Your marginal taxes on that amount could be as high as 35 percent.
Many things can be done to make the wonderful world of economic activity gender-neutral. And they do not involve more layers of bureaucracy. (See the NCPA publication for more on these issues: Leaving Women Behind: Modern Families, Outdated Laws.)