Wage Standards: Women and Low-Wage Workers


In the past five decades the number of women in the labor force has more than tripled. The rate of workforce participation among older women, in particular, has risen dramatically. Women age 50 and older account for more than one-third of all female workers. More than 50 percent of AARP’s working members are women, the majority of whom work full time.

Despite these dramatic increases in participation, working women of all ages continue to encounter attitudes and business practices that arbitrarily limit their employment opportunities and earning power. These practices can jeopardize their financial security, both while working and in retirement.

For a sizable segment of the workforce, full-time, year-round work does not provide sufficient income for a decent standard of living. Jobs held by low-wage workers typically provide no health insurance or pension coverage, little if any paid time off, and virtually no job security. Low-wage workers often find it necessary to work two full-time jobs to make ends meet. Some jurisdictions have passed living-wage ordinances intended to ensure that covered workers’ earnings are above the poverty level. Such policies are far from universal. Supportive government policies are still needed.

Finally, overbroad federal exemptions from the requirement to pay time-and-a-half wages for overtime work means that millions of white collar workers may be unjustly losing out on wage protections.

Wage Standards: Women and Low-Wage Workers: Policy

Economic equity for women (Federal, State)

In this policy: FederalStateEmploymenteconomic equitywomenequalityequityjob benefitscaregiving

AARP supports efforts to eliminate all barriers to women’s employment and ensure equality in employment opportunities, pay, and benefits.

AARP also supports improving the availability and adequacy of benefits, including pensions, in the occupations, industries, and sectors in which women are most likely to work.

Federal and state governments should enact and strengthen policies to ensure that workers have access to safe, high-quality, affordable care for children and other dependents in their care.

Wage standards

Wage and hour laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act and state counterparts should be strengthened and enforced.

Government policies should ensure that workers’ pay and other benefits are sufficient to cover essential living expenses. AARP supports living-wage measures as a method of keeping workers’ pay commensurate with the local cost of living.

Congress and the states should adjust and index the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.