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Still Earn Only 63.6% of Men’s Income : Women Get Better-Paying Jobs, Narrowing the Gap

Times Staff Writer

Women are moving into better-paying jobs, and the gender gap in wages has narrowed slightly, but women still earn only 63.6% of men’s income, the Labor Department said Wednesday in a special report on the female work force.

The median income for full-time workers was $21,881 for men and $13,915 for women in 1983, the latest year for which figures are available, according to the report. The median measures a midpoint; half the workers earn more and half less.

Women made “modest but significant” progress in the last decade, the report found, noting that their numbers in the civilian work force rose from 37 million to 50 million.

Lower-Paying Jobs

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However, working women are still concentrated in “the lower-paying industries and occupations,” the report said. It found that the five occupations that employ the most women are secretaries, cashiers, bookkeepers, registered nurses and waitresses--nearly the same grouping as 10 years ago.

In 1975, the median income for full-time women workers was 58.8% of men’s median earnings. The gap has narrowed and widened in an erratic fashion over the last 10 years. It was 61.7% in 1982, before improving to 63.6% the following year.

“As increasing numbers of women disperse into jobs that offer higher pay for higher levels of skills and responsibilities, the earnings differential is expected to shrink further,” the report said. It was prepared by the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau for a United Nations conference on “The Decade for Women.”

Selected Jobs Listed

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More women are moving into better-paid professional fields, but they constitute a relatively small share of the work force in these jobs. Among a list of selected jobs surveyed by the government, the share held by women last year varied considerably: doctors, 16%; registered nurses, 96%; lawyers, 16.1%; engineers, 6.2%; computer programmers, 35.4%; welders, 4.7%; economists, 39.6%; bartenders, 48.9%; police and detectives, 10.8%; typesetters and compositors, 67.4%; airplane pilots and navigators, 2.1%, and education and job counselors, 54.2%.

A majority of women, 53.6%, were working or looking for work last year, up from 46.3% a decade ago, the report said. During the same period, male participation in the labor force declined slightly, to 76.4% last year from 77.9% a decade ago.

In the “prime working age group,” persons between 25 and 54 years old, women’s participation is even higher, with 70% working or seeking jobs, the Labor Department said.

More Working Mothers

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Moreover, a dramatic rise in the number of working mothers is under way, reaching a record 19.5 million last year, the report noted. The increase “has been phenomenal,” with 59% of mothers in the work force now, contrasted with 45% a decade ago, it said.

The trend indicates “that nursery school attendance or day care in some form is increasingly necessary,” the study said.

Most American children under the age of 18 had mothers in the labor force last year. “The vast majority of these children were under 14 years--ages for which all-day care, after-school care, or a combination of both is likely to be needed,” according to the report.


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