Goldin, who was born in New York in 1946, is the third woman to receive the Nobel Prize in economics. She is a co-director of the Gender in the Economy working group at the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States as well as the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University. She is the author of various publications, but her research on the history of women in the US economy has garnered her the most notoriety.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Goldin had “uncovered key drivers of gender differences in the labour market.” Jakob Svensson, chair of the committee for the prize in economic sciences, added: “Understanding women’s role in the labour market is important for society. Thanks to Claudia Goldin’s groundbreaking research we now know much more about the underlying factors and which barriers may need to be addressed in the future.”
According to Dr. Goldin, the 1970s were a “revolutionary” decade for women in the United States because they started to marry later, made significant advancements in higher education, and made achievements in the labour market. In those years, birth control pills were more widely accessible, eliminating what Dr. Goldin has referred to as a “potent” reason for early marriage and giving women more opportunity to develop their identities outside of the house. Dr. Goldin has also shown how the effort to close the gender wage gap has been unevenly distributed across time. The gender pay gap between men and women in the United States is currently little over 80 cents; progress towards closing it has recently slowed. In the past, gender wage gaps could be explained by education and occupation. But Dr. Goldin has shown that most of the earnings difference is now between men and women in the same jobs.
• Her Method:
Prof. Goldin has applied deductive, historical and time series analysis method for her research work. The inferences of her research work are not only applicable to USA but any other country embracing the stages of economic growth in a free market system. Free market economy by ensuring allocative efficiency provides opportunities but fails to achieve distributive justice. Hence such unskilled or semi-skilled yet productive ‘half’ of the workforce in the system is always underrated and underutilized. Thus, gender wage gap has been a bone of contention universally.
Surprisingly an advanced economy like USA took time to realise the gravity of the issue. Development triad in the globe i.e. Europe, North America and Japan followed service sector oriented Neoliberal growth model resulting in serious ignorance to agriculture. It also had implication to labour market. Mismatch in labour demand and supply, shortage of labour in primary sector, insignificant participation of women in labour market and wage inequality were the consequences of such growth model. Unfortunately, developing countries also followed the same model and in turn got trapped in vicious circle of worsening wage disparity, unequal growth and social injustice. These countries struggle with gender and wage inequality simultaneously.
This situation can be attributed to Neoliberal agenda of growth to a large extent. Such market led system fails to achieve social justice and hence welfare aspect gets jeopardized. Gender gap index, gender inequality index, inequality adjusted human development index demonstrate the extent of inequality resulting from such neoliberal growth model.
Ironically western world hails ‘feminism’ but in reality, it has miserable failed in achieving gender equality over the years. Because unequal access to economic opportunity, inequality in consumption and ownership of assets characterise western countries more than developing countries like India. In Marxian terminology ‘labour exploitation’ coupled with gender wage gap resulted in large surplus value in male dominated sectors in the West.
Thus, Claudia Goldin showed that female participation in the labour market did not have an upward trend over a 200-year period, but instead forms a U-shaped curve. The participation of married women decreased with the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society in the early nineteenth century, but then started to increase with the growth of the service sector in the early twentieth century. Goldin explained this pattern as the result of structural change and evolving social norms regarding women’s responsibilities for home and family.
In the context of India, Neoliberal growth path resulted in sectoral imbalance, decline of agricultural productivity, less participation of women in labour force and perpetual health and educational inequality. According to one estimate the extent of wage inequality among men and women is 80:20. In such a chronic condition neither neoliberal policy nor Marxian thought can rescue us. Unless our growth is engendered, we continue to endanger our economic system. Self-realisation (Aatmbhan) will be the key to resolve such socio-economic issues. In fact, the Nobel award this year underlines the need for encouraging women to participate in mainstream economic value chain actively and voluntarily. It conveys a strong message to reestablish women dignity in the society and respect for women as equal counterparts of that of men. Traditional Bharatiya thought also vouches for the same thing in following words: ‘Sanskrita Stree Parashakti’.