A government report out today shows that….

…women earn less than men!

Shock! Astonishment! Well, I never.

Reports showing much the same thing are a regular feature in the news. As usual, there is much throwing up of hands and much pontficating on the best cure for this “problem”.

The same themes are repeated over and over.

Improve opportunities for women. Encourage women to make the most of education and training opportunities. Value the “nurturing professions” more. Make it easier for women to balance home and family commitments with their work commitments. More childcare. Get rid of stereotypes about what jobs women should do, so that they can break into other, traditionally male-dominated occupations. Make it easier for small business to employ women of child-bearing age.

Oh, and who shall we blame for all these “problems” that women face?

There aren’t many people who suggest that, actually, women might have it just about right or that it might be men who have the problem. But think about it. Why on earth should the problem be that women are struggling to get into the rat race? Who wants to be there, anyway?

I’m not saying that there is nothing to be done to make the workplace fairer for women, but surely we could also be working towards equalising the pay gap by encouraging men to downshift, spend more time with their families and enjoy the benefits of a better work / life balance. Why should the men be expected to work long hours and earn big bucks when instead they could take a little pay cut, kick back and play football with their kids in the park?

I don’t think I’ve heard this view expressed by anyone… why not?

Here are some clues, taken from the Executive Summary of today’s report (I was too lazy to read the full 148-page version):

the UK economy is losing productivity and output… removing barriers to women working in occupations traditionally done by men, and increasing women’s participation in the labour market, could be worth between £15 billion and £23 billion or 1.3 to 2.0 per cent of GDP.”

So let’s not be too touchingly naive about the government’s motives, eh?

Meanwhile, scientists have come up with a great way to combat climate change: catch the plague! And a pox on anyone who invents an anti-plague vaccine…