Women’s Group Advocates Against ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Policies

New report offers proposals to help female workers without growing government

April 12, 2016

A women’s group is rolling out an extensive set of policy proposals aimed at boosting job opportunities and flexibility for female American workers without expanding government.

The Independent Women’s Forum, a nonprofit research and educational group, on Tuesday unveiled an economic report that lays out a series of policy reforms that present alternatives to "one-size-fits-all" proposals to help women achieve success at a time when the women’s labor force participation rate is at a nearly 30-year low.

A boost to the minimum wage and other elements of the progressive agenda would hurt American women in the workforce by forcing companies to cut jobs or discouraging them from hiring female workers, the authors of "Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women’s Lives" argue.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has positioned herself as a champion for women, arguing that a minimum wage hike would help American women because they disproportionately hold minimum wage jobs. She has pushed for a $12 federal minimum wage and recently celebrated the $15 minimum wage hike in New York. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), her competitor for the nomination, has demanded that the federal minimum wage be increased to $15 an hour.

"A higher minimum wage would mean some women would get a raise, but others would lose their jobs as businesses seek to compensate for higher employment costs. When employment costs go up, businesses have to find a way to compensate—they can do that by trying to raise prices on consumer, cutting jobs, cutting take home pay, or reducing benefits. All of these changes are bad news for women," Carrie Lukas, the Independent Women’s Forum managing director and the primary author of the report, told the Washington Free Beacon.

"Advocates of a higher minimum wage like to pretend that somehow the laws of economics don’t apply when it comes to wages, but it’s a simple fact—if you raise the price of something that means the people can afford less of it.  And when laws make it more expensive to hire a worker, the result if fewer jobs," Lukas continued.

Instead, the experts argue in favor of the expansion of the so-called "sub-minimum wage," a $4.25 an hour wage for employees under the age of 20 to receive during the first 90 days of employment. The provision allows young workers to get a "foot in the door," the report argues, and should be expanded to include those 25 years or younger and those who have been unemployed for 90 days or more.

"This would help those who are just starting out and prevent the problems associated with long-term unemployment," the report explains.

A boosted minimum wage is one of several policies championed by progressives that the experts say could hurt women in the American workforce or prevent them from entering it. The report also exposes downfalls of proposals such as government-mandated paid leave, subsidized childcare, and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The report includes a host of recommendations geared towards improving economic opportunity, family leave policies, workplace flexibility, childcare, and retirement savings in addition to ensuring pay equity.

For example, the report advocates for comprehensive tax reform to reduce burdens placed on families and businesses and calls on Congress to fix tax brackets and reform licensing practices for businesses. It also recommends that the government consolidate child-centered tax credits and eliminate regulations that make daycare costs unnecessarily high.

The authors propose that lawmakers update language in the Equal Pay Act and Pregnancy Discrimination Act to clarify current ambiguities. They also ask Congress to reform the "antiquated, Depression-era" Fair Labor Standards Act and block strict regulations put forth by President Obama’s Department of Labor that by one estimate would cost employers over $9 billion per year.

"Instead of creating top-down reforms or expanding government programs, policymakers need to understand where the law has worked to help women advance economically, and where it is impeding women’s programs," the report says.

"Policymakers need to think more creatively about how to help women foremost by creating a stronger economic environment that gives people more choice, opportunities, and resources so they can build the lives and work situations that meet their unique preferences and situations."

The group developed the economic report in conjunction with an advisory committee of academics, policy experts, and industry specialists. More than thirty female conservative leaders have endorsed the "Working for Women" platform.

Leaders at the Independent Women’s Forum released the report on "Equal Pay Day."

"Too often we feel that progressives sell their policy proposals to women as solutions to universal challenges, but we understand that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges women face," Sabrina Schaeffer, the Independent Women’s Forum executive director, told reporters.

"At the same time, we recognize that we can do more to help women succeed without putting jobs at risk, dampening wages, or decreasing flexibility."