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  • Print publication year: 1993
  • Online publication date: July 2010

5 - Equal pay for work of equal value in the European Community

Summary

What people in the United States call “equal pay for comparable worth,” those in the European Community (EC) and Australia call “equal pay for work of equal value.” By its equal-value name, comparable worth has been a legal requirement in the EC for over a decade and a half. Christopher McCrudden, a fellow and tutor in law at Lincoln College, Oxford University, has correctly noted that many U.S. participants in the debate about comparable worth are completely unaware of this fact. McCrudden believes that European experience can provide evidence to rebut complaints leveled against the concept – such as the charges that it ignores the economic realities of supply and demand and requires courts and agencies to undertake the impossible task of ascertaining the worth of dissimilar jobs. However, like most people who write on the subject in Europe, McCrudden is interested primarily in a legal analysis of comparable worth. In an article written for a U.S. audience he discusses statutory and case law but explicitly omits analysis of “the practice of comparable worth in Europe, except to look briefly at the extent of litigation.” Though he thus says nothing about European methods of comparing various jobs or about the economic effects of their efforts, he nonetheless makes it clear that he thinks Americans have spent too much time debating the merits of comparable worth and worrying about possible ill effects. After more than a decade of experience in Europe, he states, “The sky has not fallen.” In McCrudden's view, it is time for Americans to consider institutional modifications that would facilitate the effective implementation of the concept.