Many of us know by now that according to the US Census report, in 2012 a full-time female worker made about 77 cents on the dollar compared with her male counterpart. What you may not realize, though, is that by raising the standard of pay for these female workers to equal that of the male worker, we could reduce the shortfall in the funding of Social Security by up to a third.
According to a study recently released by the Social Security Works, a non-profit group that advocates for the protection of the Social Security program, closing the pay gap and increasing pay for women would increase income paid in social security taxes, thereby increasing funds for the Social Security Trust Fund.
Women not only receive lower pay than their peers, but typically are more likely to leave the workforce for a period of time to provide for childcare and family responsibilities leaving them with less in savings for retirement. Because of this, women are typically more reliant on Social Security due to lost work opportunity and lower wages over their lifetime. The National Women’s Law Center statistics report that more than 2.6 million women over the age of 65 lived in poverty in 2012; nearly twice as many as men. The average Social Security benefit for women over the age of 65 is $12,520 a year compared to $16,396 for men. Along with reduced Social Security retirement benefits, women also face reduced disability and unemployment benefits. For a third of women who are the sole breadwinners in their families this has a devastating impact on a large number of American families.
Social Security benefits are based on a lifetime earnings record; therefore the gender pay gap in earnings produces a gender gap in Social Security benefits. Women live longer, earn less and have fewer resources in retirement. This is not right. We should fight to make sure women earn what they deserve while working so they have more to count on when retired. Decreasing the pay gap wouldn’t just help women, it would benefit our country as a whole.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, most of any increased pay to women would be subject to increased contributions to the Social Security system since 97 % of female workers have earnings below the Social Security tax cut off. This additional revenue could generate billions of dollars of additional revenue each year. Higher pay for women could close the funding gap for the Social Security Trust fund; benefitting all of us, men and women.
About the author: Suzanne L. Johnson is an attorney and partner at the workers’ rights law firm McTeague Higbee. She can be reached at 207-725-5581 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.