COVID-19 Shows Why Equal Pay Matters
The pandemic gripping the world strikes at every aspect of our lives. For older women already struggling to afford basic needs, it’s having a severe impact on both their health and their finances—and the future of their families.
March 31 is Equal Pay Day, the date that symbolizes how many extra days women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. In the age of COVID-19, it’s another stark reminder that older women would be better prepared financially if the wage gap didn’t follow them into retirement.
Despite gains over the last 30 years, the Department of Labor reports that the 2017 median earnings of women were still only 80% of men. This gap only gets bigger as you break the data down by race. In fact, Equal Pay Day for African American women isn’t until August 22. For Native American women, it’s September 23, and for Latinas, November 20. As a Latina, November seems like a long time to close the pay gap on an annual basis.
Social Security payments are based on how much you earned during your working years, so the long-term effects of women earning less means they get paid less when they retire, too. The average Social Security benefit for a woman aged 65+ is just over $14,000 per year, compared $18,000 for men of the same age.
Less money paid also means less money saved. That explains why nearly half of all unmarried and widowed women get 90% or more of their total income from Social Security.
We know how to fix this
Equal Pay Day this year reminds us yet again that we can’t wait for a crisis to fix the pay gap. For older women who are choosing which bill to pay each month on a fixed income—while also facing an unprecedented public health crisis—there’s literally no time to waste.
The nation’s entire focus is on COVID-19 right now—as it should be. But as we emerge from this crisis, let’s revisit what’s truly important to ensure that every American can age with dignity: equal pay for equal work; access to jobs and training; the ability to pay for care and to have access to paid sick leave if we are still working to make ends meet; and support for every one of us who is unprepared to weather a health or financial shock like the one we’re living through right now.
If there’s one thing a crisis can give you, it’s clarity. Women of all ages and backgrounds deserve equal pay. No more excuses.