How Can Equal Pay be Justified?

In this book chapter, Cathrine Holst discusses the equal pay principle. She shows how alternative conceptions of justice in wage formation are shaped by the organizational and institutional context.

Holst's chapter appears in the book Conflict and Cooperation the Nordic Way, edited by Fredrik Engelstad and Anniken Hagelund and published with De Gruyter Open.

About the book

The Nordic model attracts attention in a mixture of applause and disbelief. Among its merits, but also a precondition to its future survival, is its capacity to modify and adapt to changing circumstances. This book scrutinizes Nordic – in particular Norwegian – working life and welfare states from the perspective of institutional change.

The analyses range from property rights, boardroom politics and wage formation to old-age pensions, care work and childcare policies. What emerges is a picture of societies characterized by ongoing, often incremental, social and political reform processes. Tripartite relations of coordination and negotiation in the labor market and beyond, give shape to power relations and political processes in particular ways. The close connections between labour market, welfare state, family and gender policies work to create institutional bundles – in an even stronger way than assumed in the Varieties of Capitalism literature.

Lessons from a local equal pay controversy

Equal pay for equal work, or work of equal value, is a central slogan for the women’s movement and an established principle in international law. How can equal pay be justified? Which normative concerns and arguments speak against the equal pay principle; what speaks in favour of it?

In the international academic literature normative discussions of equal pay, also referred to as 'comparable worth', go on in different branches of gender studies, in economics, as well as in moral and political philosophy. A central ambition of this chapter is to investigate the relationship between these debates going on in the academic field and the equal pay controversy as it has been unfolding in Norway.

A closer comparison shows that familiar arguments in academic exchanges are present in this local controversy but that the Norwegian equal pay exchanges are characterized by a richer normative structure in that a broader set of reasonable concerns and arguments are raised. How can this discrepancy be understood? Why is the Norwegian controversy different and seemingly more advanced?

Full info

'Institutional Variation and Normative Theory: Lessons from a Local Equal Pay Controversy'
Cathrine Holst

DOI: 10.1515/9783110436891-008

In: Cooperation and Conflict the Nordic Way: Work, Welfare, and Institutional Change in Scandinavia
Fredrik Engelstad and Anniken Hagelund (eds)

De Gruyter Open, 2015
ISBN: 978-3-11-044427-8
e-ISBN: 978-3-11-044428-5

Published Dec. 7, 2015 11:28 AM - Last modified Jan. 27, 2017 2:24 PM