Questioning the Rationale for Reduced Budget for Women’s Bureau

February 15, 2012

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

—    Benjamin Franklin

AAUW is disappointed that President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal would dramatically reduce the budget and the role of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor, the  only federal office exclusively concerned with serving women in the workforce. The president’s budget proposes to slash the bureau’s budget by 22 percent and its complement of full-time staff by nearly 37.5 percent. This is unacceptable. The bureau is already a small agency with a big goal — such large cuts would cripple it.

In its budget statement, the Department of Labor says that the bureau’s reduced funds will be reallocated to “increase enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Family Medical Leave Act — two laws of critical importance to working women.” But women are not the only beneficiaries of FLSA and FMLA — these programs are important to all working families, and enforcement should not be funded at women’s expense.

Furthermore, although enforcement is extremely important, so too is the bureau’s work on public education, research, and outreach to affirmatively counteract individual and institutional barriers such as the pay gap, career gender bias, and other factors that fall outside of enforcement but are just as critical to women’s economic equity. Prevention is critical to enforcement, and the proposed budget cuts would weaken the government’s ability to prevent pay inequity.

The Department of Labor also proposes to consolidate the regional offices of five agencies to reduce costs. Yet of all these agencies, only the Women’s Bureau budget and staff levels are affected. The other agencies’ budgets and staff levels are either increased or remain constant. The work of the bureau is extremely important, particularly since women are having a much harder time in the economic recovery than men. AAUW believes we need more research to be done on women’s access to well-paying jobs in the workplace, not less.

AAUW will continue to work toward pay equity, and we hope to work with the Obama administration on this goal. Yet the key to this pathway is the full funding of the Women’s Bureau and recognition of its important role in promoting pay equity for America’s women.

By:   |   February 15, 2012

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