Will Botox subsidies reduce the gender wage gap in New Zealand?

If unconscious bias is the cause of the gender wage gap, as we are told by our betters, that explosion of unconscious bias at the age of 30 as shown by the figure below is a business opportunity for the cosmetics industry. The gender gap average over the last 20 years increases from an average of 2% for women in their late 20s to an average of nearly 9% for women aged 30 to 34. If you can fool employers into thinking you are a late 20 something rather than an early 30 something, you almost completely escape their unconscious bias against women in hiring, promotions, pay and everything else arising from male chauvinism in the workplace.

data extracted on 19 Jan 2018 05:20 UTC (GMT) from NZ.Stat

Patriarchy cannot be so easily escaped through investing in beauty and youthfulness, or can it? Perhaps the unconscious bias explanation for the gender wage gap, which is a demand side explanation explaining the gender wage gap in terms of employer discrimination is missing something?

By coincidence, women tend to start having babies at about the age of 29. Perhaps those choices need more weigh in gender pay gap explanations than dastardly employer unconscious bias. If unconscious bias is the explanation for the gender wage gap, it is so easy to counteract by a little bit of make-up and Botox. Patriarchy and male chauvinism should not hang on such a thin reed.

If the gender pay gap is largely driven by unconscious bias, counter strategies to overcome it such as investing in beauty and youth should be considered. Especially as the bias is unconscious so that if you use counter signalling to deceive this bias, the biased employer will not take countermeasures because the bias is unconscious. The biased employer neither knows they are biased nor do they know they have been deceived in a way that overcomes the bias of which they are unaware.

If you face bias, taking measures that overcome that bias is rather sensible. There is a vast literature on signalling and counter signalling to demonstrate to prospective employers that you have the right stuff. The most obvious example of this is dressing up for job interviews. A simple extension of that signalling is using make up, cosmetics and hairstyles to look under 30 if you are female to avoid the Damocles sword of unconscious bias dropping on you from employers.

The flaw in the unconscious bias hypothesis of the gender wage gap is it cannot explain the lack of bias against women in their 20s and why that bias suddenly emerges as so strong a bias against women in the 30s. The rival explanation that women adapt their labour force participation and investment in human capital to the prospect and actuality of motherhood is a far better explanation of the sudden emergence of that wage gap.

Leaving aside how you can overcome unconscious bias on the employer side, what steps can job applicants and employees take to overcome unconscious bias of employers against women? If that unconscious bias is much stronger for older women than against younger women, is it so illogical to suggest that there is a labour market payoff from investing in youthfulness?

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This entry was posted in economics on by .

About Jim Rose

Utopia - you are standing in it promotes a classical liberal view of the world and champion the mass flourishing of humanity through capitalism and the rule of law. The origin of the blog is explained in the first blog post at https://utopiayouarestandinginit.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/why-call-my-blog-utopia-you-are-standing-in-it/

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