Good morning. Americans have always believed that people who work hard should be able to provide for themselves and their families. This is a fundamental part of Americas basic bargain. Today, I want to talk to you about what we are doing to make sure that bargain works for all of our people, by ensuring that women and men earn equal pay for equal work.
We are living in a time of remarkable promise. Our economy is the strongest in a generationwith more than 17 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment in 29 years, family incomes rising by $3,500, and the greatest real wage growth in over two decades. I believe we have an opportunityand an obligationto make sure that every American can benefit from this moment of prosperity.
One of the most important ways we can meet this challenge is by putting an end to wage discrimination. When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act thirty-five years ago, women were entering the workforce in ever-increasing numbersbut their work was undervalued. At the time, for ever dollar a man brought home to his family in his paycheck, a woman doing the same job earned only 58 cents.
We have made a lot of progress since those days. Last June, the Presidents Council of Economic Advisors reported that the gender gap had narrowed considerablyin fact, we have nearly cut it in half. Today, women earn 76 cents for every dollar a man earns.
But despite this progress, we still have far to go. And one big reason is thatdespite womens gains in education and experiencewage discrimination is still a problem in American workplaces. There are still too many women whose work is not being fully valued by employers.
Make no mistake: When a woman is denied equal pay, it doesnt just hurt herit hurts her family. Between 1995 and 1996 alone, the number of families with two working parents increased by nearly two million. And in hundreds of thousands of families, the mother is the only breadwinner.
Just think what that 24 percent wage gap means in real terms. Over the course of a working year, it means hundreds, even thousands of bags of groceries visits to the doctor rent and mortgage payments. Over the course of a working life, it can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars smaller pensions and less to put aside for retirement.
We can be proud of the progress we have made in the last 35 years but 76 cents on the dollar is only three quarters of the way there. It is not enough for women, for families, or for America. We cannot rest until we are all the way there until equal work means equal pay.
Today, I am pleased to announce a new $14 million Equal Pay Initiative, included in my balanced budget, to help the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to put an end to wage discrimination and expand opportunities in the workplace for women. With more resources to identify wage discrimination, to educate employers and workers about their rights and responsibilities, and to bring more women into better-paying jobs, we will be closer than ever to putting an end to wage discrimination.
In my State of the Union address, I called on Congress to ensure equal pay for equal work. The response was overwhelming, as members on both sides of the aisle rose to their feet. We know that equal pay is not a political issue it is a matter of principle, a question of what kind of country we want America to be today, and in the 21st Century, when our daughters grow up and enter the workplace.
So once again, I ask the Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, sponsored by Senator Daschle and Congresswoman DeLauro legislation that strengthens enforcement of our equal pay laws, expands opportunity for women, and helps working families. If we meet this challenge, if we value the contributions of all Americas workers, then we will be a more productive, prosperous, and proud nation in the 21st Century.
Thanks for listening.