Women vs Capitalism: Why We Can’t Have It All in a Free Market Economy by Vicky Pryce - review by Grace Blakeley

Grace Blakeley

Mind the Pay Gap

Women vs Capitalism: Why We Can’t Have It All in a Free Market Economy


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Thursday 14 November was the last day in 2019 that women were paid to work. Translating the UK’s gender pay gap, which is now just over 13 per cent, into a proportion of the year gives us forty-seven days. Work back from the end of the year and you reach what’s become known as Equal Pay Day, the moment in the year after which women effectively work for free. The gender pay gap is falling, but at current rates of progress it will take us a hundred years to achieve parity.

This is the context for Vicky Pryce’s new book, Women vs Capitalism. Many of the arguments are familiar. Women fall behind men, Pryce tells us, because they are penalised for child-rearing and because cognitive biases in recruitment and remuneration serve to perpetuate male dominance. However, Pryce marshals an impressive array of up-to-date statistics and interesting anecdotes to demonstrate the ways in which capitalism is failing women. All this makes for an entertaining read. For example, Pryce shows that women in the UK do 60 per cent more hours of unpaid work than men; were women paid for the work they do in and around the home, they would earn a salary of over £159,000.

Pryce, a well-known economist, argues that these problems can be understood as ‘market failures’. In other words, the free market cannot be relied upon to solve them on its own. She advocates a set of labour market interventions that, the evidence shows, would boost female participation in the

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