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Sun Jun 6, 2021, 08:03 AM

Working Women in Puerto Rico Earn Slightly More Than Men

Puerto Rico is unique among the states and territories of the U.S. in that the average income for women is higher than that of men: womenís median income is 103% of menís. Women make up 45% of the workforce in Puerto Rico, according to a report in Caribbean Business. Women in the U.S. as a whole comprise 47.5% of the workforce. But womenís wages in the States average just about 80% of menís.

Men and Womenís work history in Puerto Rico

When Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States at the end of the 19th century, Puerto Rican womenís position as workers was quite different from that of women on the mainland. The 1899 census showed that women on the mainland tended to work after they left school, until they married, at which time they often stayed home and cared for their families. Puerto Rican working women, who were generally employed as domestic servants, were more likely to work throughout their lives. Puerto Rican men at that time were usually employed in agriculture, especially in the coffee and sugar industries.

At the beginning of the 20th century, women in Puerto Rico worked primarily in agriculture and needlework, earning a few dollars a day at most. Needleworkers generally worked from their homes at that time, earning very little. Even when the minimum wage laws were enacted in the United States, the needlewomen of Puerto Rico were identified as an exception. Women sewing at home were guaranteed just $3.00 per day, according to Puerto Rican Women and Work: Bridges in Transnational Labor By Altagracia Ortiz. Ortoz characterizes the working women of Puerto Rico as a ďcolonial migrant labor forceĒ for U.S. companies.

When the U.S. government decided to industrialize Puerto Rico through Operation Bootstrap, women were in high demand as factory workers, and the textile industry moved out of the homes of the needleworkers and into the factories. Felix O. Muniz-Mas claimed in Puerto Rican Womenís History: New Perspectives (edited by Felix V. Matos-Rodriguez et al) that the Puerto Rican government encouraged home-working needlewomen to go into factories as a form of empowerment. Other researchers claim that women were in greater demand than men because they could be paid less; whether or not this is the case, it is clear that women were more likely to work in the factories and more men still worked in agriculture. As Puerto Rico moved from agriculture to industry as the basis of its economy, employment among men fell and employment among women increased. In recent years, workforce participation among both men and women has decreased.

Read more: https://www.puertoricoreport.com/working-women-in-puerto-rico-earn-slightly-more-than-men/#.YLy5H-HPzIU

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