Society and Culture

Next ‘Equal Occupational Fatality Day’ due October 2021

Every year the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) publicizes “Equal Pay Day” to bring public attention to the gender pay gap. “Equal Pay Day” this year fell on April 12, and represents how far into 2011 the average women had to continue working to earn the same income that the average man earned last year. Inspired by Equal Pay Day, I introduced “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” on the Enterprise Blog in April 2010 to bring attention to the huge gender disparity in work-related deaths in the United States.

Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released data on workplace fatalities for 2010, and a new “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” can now be calculated. As the chart above shows, there was a significant gender disparity in workplace fatalities last year: 4,192 men died while working (92.2 percent of the total) compared to only 355 women (7.8 percent of the total). The “gender occupational fatality gap” in 2010 was considerable—almost 12 men died on the job for every woman who died while working.

Based on the new BLS data, the next “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” will occur almost 11 years from now—on October 15, 2021. That date symbolizes how far into the future women will be able to continuing working before they experience the same loss of life that men experienced in 2010 from work-related deaths. Because women tend to work in safer occupations than men on average, they have the advantage of being able to work for more than a decade longer than men before they experience the same number of occupational fatalities.

The “gender pay gap” and the “gender occupational fatality gap” are connected, and can be explained by the disproportionate number of men working in higher-risk, higher-paid occupations like coal mining (almost 100 percent male), fire fighters (96 percent male), police officers (87 percent male), correctional officers (74 percent male), farming, fishing, and forestry (77 percent male), and construction (97 percent male); BLS data here. A disproportionate number of women work in lower-risk industries, often with lower pay to partially compensate for the safer, more comfortable indoor office environments in occupations like office and administrative support (74 percent female), education, training, and library occupations (74 percent female), and healthcare (74 percent female). The higher concentrations of men in riskier occupations with greater occurrences of workplace injury and death suggest that more men than women are willing to expose themselves to work-related injury or death in occupations that compensate for those risks with higher wages. On the other hand, it’s possible that women more than men prefer lower risk occupations with greater workplace safety, and are willing to accept lower wages for the reduced probability of injury or death on the  job.

Bottom Line: Groups like the NCPE use “Equal Pay Day” to promote their ultimate goal of perfect gender pay equity, probably not realizing that they are simultaneously advocating an increase in the number of women working in higher-paying, but higher-risk occupations like fire-fighting, construction, and coal mining. Unfortunately, reducing the gender pay gap could come at a huge cost: thousands of additional women will be injured or killed while working. Would closing the “gender pay gap,” if it also means closing the “gender occupational fatality gap” and exposing thousands of women to occupational injuries and fatalities each year, really be worth it?

4 thoughts on “Next ‘Equal Occupational Fatality Day’ due October 2021

  1. For a blog that is supposed to represent conservative thought leadership, this post is disappointing. There are legitimate points to be made about pay equity vs. pay equality, but proposing that one argument for retaining the current norms is that the cost in women’s lives isn’t worth the pay closure discredits legitimate points in the debate. That comes off as so paternalistic.

    Let’s stick to real arguments.

  2. This is one of the most intellectually dishonest pieces of journalism I’ve read in quite some time. The heart of the pay equality movement is that men and women should be paid equivalent salaries for doing equivalent jobs. Your article has done absolutely nothing to argue against that very basic principle.

    The examples you gave, including firefighters and construction workers, are entirely disingenuous. Those kinds of occupations have traditionally been the purview of men, and when women have attempted to break into them, they have been met with derision, dismissal, and outright harassment. And even when they HAVE succeeded, they’re almost invariably paid less than their male counterparts for doing the exact same job. If we were truly operating in a free market, people with equal talents would be paid similar amounts, regardless of their gender.

    I’ve got a novel idea that you probably won’t like. Instead of advocating for more women to die, why not advocate for fewer people to die overall, regardless of gender? Of course, this could only be achieved through responsible corporate leadership and more effective safety regulations. Like I said, you wouldn’t like it.

  3. male lives have no intrinsic value??? No extra pay for extra hazard??
    When women “break into” firefighting it usually means “special standards” just for them , extra work for the men and less service to the public…(think carrying someone down a ladder on your back).
    Neither “David or Andy” speak a single word to the point of the artical. They merly restate their programmed talking points without the intellectual honesty to actually adress the point of the artical…..DANGEROUS WORK IS ALWAYS DESERVING OF MORE MONEY THAN TOTALLY SAFE WORK!!!
    After over 40 years in the private sector I have yet to see any of the gender discrimenation that I constantly read about. GOOD help is hard to find! The gender discrimination must be happening in the public sector. in education and government, because in the private sector it is both illegal and almost non existant except in the eyes of those not in the private sector.

  4. As an occupational health and safety professional this article caught my eye as I had seen the same announcement from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    I would be interested to see the data presented as a rate instead of a fatality count. Number of fatalities per million hours worked per gender or something similar would be more meaningful than the data they and you present here. A slightly interesting, but probably statistically insignificant, fact is that workplace fatalities for women increased by 6% in 2010 versus 2009.

    However, wouldn’t it be great if industry would concentrate more on eliminating and controlling hazards instead of deciding how much “hazard pay” to give their employees? Eliminating or controlling hazards costs a company a lot less money in the long run than paying hazard pay plus higher workers’ compensation insurance due to a high injury rate. And a less hazardous environment leads to a more productive and efficient workplace.

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