Thursday, April 16, 2009

Discrimination Against Irish Female Primary Teachers?

Ok, some basic questions.

Are female primary school teachers being discriminated against? To answer this, we should bear at least a couple of things in mind.

- One, I cant find the report on the web and am relying on media coverage stating that the INTO have supplied figures to the Department of Education. Therefore the following are general consideration that should be borne in mind before anyone leaps to conclusions on the basis of the media coverage.

- On a basic level, has age and experience been controlled for? Is the reason males earn more because they have been there longer, have more experience, are higher on the progression ladder and so on. There may be unobservable reasons for pay difference also. It is a little much to expect that a basic report would go into this but it would be good to know at least whether this is a like-for-like comparison for people at different career stages. Even basic things like taking out regional effects would be worth thinking of.

- How is pay set for primary teachers? what is the mechanism whereby outright discrimination could occur? The tone of the reporting suggests that equally talented and experienced men and women apply for pay increases through a similar mechanism and men are given preferential treatment because they are men. Is this the case? If so, should somebody be held to account for this?

Should RTE and related media sites ask these questions before reporting those types of numbers? If there is outright discrimination against women, this is a bad thing - its unfair and inefficient and should be stopped. If this is just a poorly controlled correlation then it would be a waste of time to start setting up policies to counteract it, and might be damaging. In general, the culture of reporting uncontrolled gender differences (if this is what these are) needs to be looked at. If there are real causal effects of discrimination against men and women, these are really important. But raw correlations are a lousy way of uncovering these.


Kevin Denny said...

They are reporting simple means, that's all. I don't think you can expect RTE to do much more. So why does the difference arise? There's probably nothing complicated about it.
(A) Women have more interruptions to their career for family reasons so they gain less from returns to seniority
(B) This may explain why they are less likely to get to be principal
(C) There may be discrimination as well.
(D) There may be "non-cognitive factors" like less ambition or ruthlessness which hinders women. Arnaud Chevalier has done some work on how such factors can explain male/female differences.

My impression is that teachers union's tend to be dominated by men which may be relevant to some of the above explanations but I hesitate to suggest how.

Cathy Redmond said...

This has been on my mind recently. It seems really unjust that women are losing out on promotions and salary raises due to interruptions in their careers (due to childrearing).

If a couple want to have children why should the women suffer adverse career prospects? Surely the labour market should be restructured in terms of the way it deals with time out of work for childrearing, and is the reason that this hasn't been done to date that historically males have dominated the positions which would have the authority to introduce these more flexible workplaces.

Kevin Denny said...

Thats an interesting point 'though I am not sure that economics can resolve it, its more of an ethical issue. The hard-hearted economist might say "There is a return to experience.People who have less experience, for whatever reason, lose out. If couples decide that its the woman who does more of the child rearing that's their business". I am not endorsing this view, note! Of course, until such time as men can have babies, the burden will fall on females primarily.
Leaving aside equity issues, there must be an efficiency loss: good women are not making it to the top. How you deal with it, I don't know.