Should We Mind the Gap? Gender Pay Differentials and Public Policy

64 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2008

Date Written: October 21, 2008


Differences in the earnings of women and men are increasingly being used to justify regulation of the private affairs of employers and employees. Yet there is very little evidence that the 'gender pay gap' is the result of unfair discrimination. In fact in can be explained by variations in the kinds of job undertaken by men and women, as well as educational and lifestyle choices. Women may favour quality of life and job satisfaction over higher earnings.

The authors argues that complete equality of pay is impossible to achieve in a free society of any complexity. Men and women would need to be identical in their qualifications, choice of occupations, career plans and lifestyle choices.

Thus policies that try to impose equality through tighter employment regulation are unlikely to have much impact, and such measures may damage the economic position of both men and women.

Keywords: gender pay gap, gender discrimination, equal pay, women's pay, sex discrimination, labour regulations, anti-discrimination legislation

JEL Classification: J16, J21, J24, J28, J31, J71, J78

Suggested Citation

Shackleton, J. R., Should We Mind the Gap? Gender Pay Differentials and Public Policy (October 21, 2008). Insititute of Economic Affairs Monographs, Hobart Paper No. 164. Available at SSRN: or

J. R. Shackleton (Contact Author)

Westminster Business School

35 Marylebone Road
London NW1 5LS
0207 911 5075 (Phone)

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics