The 40-year pursuit of equal pay: a case of constantly moving goalposts

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Progress towards equal pay is elusive. This article reviews debates on and prescribed remedies for gender pay equality over the past 40 years of equal pay policy. It looks at pay from four perspectives—the economic, the sociological, the institutional and the organisational—and explores how and why once an apparent remedy for unequal pay is pursued, the goalposts tend to shift. The argument is made that the difficulties in securing long-term progress may be attributed to a number of factors, including the multifaceted nature of pay as a social phenomenon, the challenge of pursuing social objectives in a rapidly changing and fragmenting environment, the need for political will not technical solutions to achieve redistribution and the potential for gender inequalities to re-emerge in new forms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-343
Number of pages24
JournalCambridge Journal of Economics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Gender, Pay, Wages, Equal pay


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