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5/25/16 - Legislature picking up where it left off; Wage gap between men, women persists

Legislature in special session picks up oil and gas tax credits

Alaska legislators have agreed to pick up where they left off on issues left unresolved when the extended session ended last week. Minority House Democrats tried unsuccessfully for a fresh start on tax credits. Critics said the issue has been well vetted and the committee process should be allowed to play out.

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Alaska women face a 67 percent earnings gap compared to men’s earnings

By JoaqlinEstus, KNBA News

On average, women in Alaska are paid 67 cents for every dollar paid to men. That’s according to a report published by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. To earn more, some women are moving into jobs traditionally held by men but the report shows little long-term change.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the national average is for women to be paid 83 cents for every dollar paid to men, compared to Alaska’s 67 cents per dollar. Economist Caroline Schultz is the author of the “Gender and Nontraditional Work” report in the May issue of “Alaska Economic Trends.” She said the earnings gap is due in part to the kinds of jobs Alaska has to offer.

“We do have a high percentage of construction jobs and a high percentage of jobs in extractive industries, oil and gas, and mining,” said Schultz. “And a lot of jobs at remote work sites so that’s part of the explanation behind why we have these high wage jobs in the lower skill categories. Because even if y’know, being just kind of a regular repair maintenance worker because if you’re doing it on the North Slope that’s going to come with a wage premium. It tends to push up the wages.”

Fields dominated by men pay more than those dominated by women. So, for instance, engineers are paid an average of 99-thousand dollars a year, while health care practitioners are paid 71-thousand. Construction laborers, truck drivers, and roustabouts are typically paid more than bank tellers, office administrators and clerks.

Ben Eveland, director of the AVTEC Technical Institute in Seward, said he’s seeing women seeking a living wage move into fields traditionally dominated by men..

“Industrial electrical we’ve had a lot of females go through that program which used to be male-dominated. The diesel heavy program, we’ve had a few of females go through that,” said Eveland. “And again with some of the increase in the use of different tooling and machinery and stuff, you have a lot more females now that can do that role, especially in operator roles. Another one is maritime, it used to be male-dominated and now we have a lot of females who have been through our program.”

AVTEC Education Associate Kim Kain, said it goes the other direction too, with some men moving into traditionally female-dominated occupations.

“For example, we had a student this year that had actually had training in the construction and refrigeration field, and just decided that, y’know, he was gone from home a lot and he came back to school here to do our business and office technology class this year because he wanted to spend more time at home with his family,” said Kain.

However, economist Schultz said her research shows the overall trend, from 2005 to 2015, in Alaska, is flat.

“There really aren’t any large changes in whether or not women or men are working in non-traditional occupations,” said Schultz. “There are small changes in both directions among very specific occupations that end up kind of just cancelling each other out.”

Schultz said job choices reflect societal expectations -- a man working as a kindergarten teacher and a woman working as a mechanic, will face some social pressure. Also she said choices made early in life can have a big effect.

“It starts in what you get interested in in high school and what you end up majoring in in college and it just continues,” said Schultz. “And it can end being up just a massive lifetime earning disparity for women and men.”

Schultz said workplaces are becoming more egalitarian, and laws and regulations have removed many barriers, but occupation selection is slow to change.

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