The division of labour in Delia’s household and the kinds of jobs her mother and father hold outside, have roots in the conventional images of man-as-breadwinner and woman-as-home-maker. They also have a hard material base. We do not have Fred and Rae Prince’s tax returns but the general position is known. In 1978, the year of these interviews, the average wages for adult full-time employees in Australia were $239 a week if they were men, $183 if they were women. That is to say, a decade after the Equal Pay Case that established a notional policy of sex equality in pay rates, women got 77 per cent of what men got. By 1985 this had moved up to 82 per cent.

These figures greatly overstate the general level of equality. In the mid-1980s more women than men earn less than a full wage because they are less than full-time workers. About 36 per cent of employed women in Australia are part-timers (Rae Prince being one), compared with 6 per cent of employed men. Taking all employed people, women’s average earnings are 66 per cent of men’s (1985 figures). Further, a higher proportion of women workers earn no wage because they are are unemployed, and many more women than men have very low incomes because they are dependent on a pension or welfare benefit. Figures for 1981/2 show that 1.97 million women have social security as their main source of income compared with 0.78 million men. The result is that the average income of women who have any income at all is 48 per cent of the men’s average (1981/2). And even that overstates the degree of equality, since a higher proportion of women have no income at all. Adjusting for that, the average income of all women is 45 per cent of the average income of all men.

Statistics on wealth are harder to come by, as wealth is better concealed. But there is no doubt at all that men control the major concentrations of wealth in the Australian economy. The magazine Business Review Weekly compiles, from a miscellany of sources, an annual list of the 200 richest people in the country. In the 1985 list just four of the listed names were women.

Australia has a reputation for putting women down; are these figures exceptional? There are no systematic statistics on men’s and women’s incomes on a world scale. But there are many pointers to the state of affairs in individual countries. A recent International Labor Office study of manufacturing industries in twenty countries, for instance, shows that women’s wages are less than men’s wages in every country studied. As examples:

Women’s wages as % of men’s

West Germany



.. 43



El Salvador


Figures for Eastern European economies show much the same

pattern as in Western Europe:

Women’s median full­time earnings as % of








A comparison of Latin American countries uses a different measure, setting cut-off points and showing what percentages of women and men fall above and below them. These figures show the percentages falling in the lowest income category in each country:

Women Men

Colombia (all employees)

47% 38%

Chile (non-agricultural)

27% 7%

Panama (non-agricultural)

34% 6%

Clearly the pattern of unequal income is international, though the level of inequality varies from place to place.

One of the reasons for these differentials (though certainly not the only one) is unequal access to education and training. There are relatively systematic international statistics on literacy and participation in schooling. Though the overall levels of literacy claimed have to be taken with a certain scepticism, there is no reason to doubt the overall pattern of sex differences that emerge within each country.

To get a global picture in these and following comparisons, I have taken countries from six broad groupings: (1) United States (a group in itself); (2) EEC + Japan; (3) Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; (4) China + India; (5) second-tier capitalist; (6) poorest.

Access to jobs outside subsistence agriculture – as well as other sources of social power — is very much affected by whether you have been taught to read and write. Almost everywhere in the world, more men than women have been. Table 1 shows a selection of illiteracy rates, the percentage of the population reported illiterate.

Access to higher-level jobs is very much affected by advanced education. Men generally get more of this than women. The figures in table 2 are percentages of the adult population who have post-secondary education.

The differences in earnings shown on page 7 are compounded by massive differences in the numbers of women and men able to earn any income at all. There are systematic figures on this, because of the close interest taken in the size and composition of the ‘labour force5 by official agencies concerned with economic development. The World Bank, for instance, has statistics on what percentage women make of the (paid) labour force in every country,

Table 1 Percentage of population reported illiterate







United States




























(1) United States



(2) Japan



(3) Poland



(4) India



(5) Brazil



(6) Egypt



Table 2 Percentage of adult population with post-secondary education

Подпись: *
Подпись: Table 3 Women’s share of the total paid labour force Country Percentage share (1) United States 38 (2) West Germany 36 (3) Soviet Union 50 (4) China 38 (3) South Korea 33 (6) Colombia 25

and has even totalled them across four groups of countries (the categories neatly reflecting the Bank’s own preoccupations). The figures are: for ‘developing countries’, 25 per cent; for ‘capital – surplus oil-exporting countries’, 5 per cent; for ‘industrialized countries’, 35 per cent; for ‘centrally planned economies’, 45 per cent. Examples of women’s share of the total labour force in countries selected from the six groupings defined earlier, are shown in table 3.

Only in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and some parts of Black Africa, is women’s participation in the paid labour force close to that of meh. In the rest of the world, men’s participation rates run at roughly twice those of women. The differences are startling in Arab countries, where it is exceptional for more than 15 per cent of the paid labour force to be women; here men’s participation rates are from five to twenty times as high as women’s.

A low labour-force participation rate certainly does not mean that large numbers of women do no work. What it means is that their work is not paid. They work mainly outside the cash economy, in housework, childrearing, subsistence agriculture, or labour for a husband or father who markets the product.

This is one aspect of an economic segregation between women and men that also runs through the money economy. In Australia, for instance, men hold 86 per cent of the jobs as administrators, executives and managers, but only 28 per cent of clerical jobs; 88 per cent of jobs in trades, process work, labouring and mining and 47 per cent of jobs in sales (1983 figures). A study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), covering the richer capitalist countries, shows that this pattern is international: ‘The coefficient of female representation shows that women are most under-represented in administrative and managerial occupations in all countries.. . Women are over­represented in clerical occupations in all countries. . . They are also over-represented in service occupations in all countries.’ When the broad groupings are broken down, as the OECD study also notes, the degree of concentration can be even more striking: ‘For example, in the United States in 1978, 97 per cent of registered nurses and 94 per cent of elementary teachers within this group were women, while 91 per cent of industrial engineers and 99 per cent of airplane pilots were men.’

One reason why women rarely appear near the top of the economic tree is that in a capitalist economy the ability to accumulate wealth is very much dependent on one’s ability to command credit. There is reason to think that lenders — banks and other financial institutions – do not extend the credit to women that they do to men. The New South Wales (NSW) Anti – Discrimination Board, currently studying this issue, cites cases such as this in the early 1980s: ‘A married couple… had a joint cheque account with the same suburban bank. They separated and then took out individual accounts with the same bank. They both overdrew. The man’s cheques were honoured though he overdrew by $1500. The woman’s cheques were bounced although she overdrew by only $300.’

Direct discrimination in terms of sex, marital status and the assumption that a husband is necessarily ‘head of the household’ and therefore a wife is not an independent agent, is compounded by the fact that several categories of people who are usually not given credit at all consist mainly of women. This includes people dependent on welfare payments and those with no current cash income. The difficulties this situation creates for women in getting finance to buy a house are familiar in the experience of women’s refuges.