The gender pay gap

The Institute of Fiscal Studies recently released a report that showed that in the UK women still earn less than men.

The headline was splashed across every news bulletin and newspaper as apparent evidence that corporate UK is still sexist, misogynist, backward and needs to change.

The truth however, is more subtle and although the headlines do show a gender pay gap within the UK a closer look reveals that all is not quite what it originally appeared.

It is important to state that these figures assume that men and women are paid at the same rate for equal work as this is the law and there are no official figures showing unequal pay.

Discrimination of this kind may play a part in the gender pay gap but we are unable to say to what degree.

What is more important is part-time working, which we can begin to explain by stating a couple of facts.

The first fact is that women are much more likely to work part-time compared to a man, three in seven women compared to one in seven men.

The second is that part-time work is paid less than full time.

Sheila Wild formerly of the Equality and Human Rights Commission says that;

“We have a full-time labour market where people behave and are treated on one way and a part-time labour market where people behave and are treated in different way.”

Delving into the IFS report shows that looking at female workers in isolation, part-time workers are paid 32% less than those working full time.

It could be argued that we should be making the case for reducing the part-time pay gap as this contributes greatly to the gender pay gap as a whole.

If one looks at only women and men working full time, the pay gap is greatly reduced.

A further element to look it is why men are still in higher paid jobs.

It is not stereotyping to suggest that in the UK there are still jobs that are considered men and women’s jobs, this is a fact.

Official statistics show that more men are in senior and managerial jobs and women are in lower paid sectors of the economy such as caring and administration.

How much of this is personal choice on behalf of female workers or a choice forced upon them?

It can come down to local and national labour markets, family circumstances and national culture, what jobs does society determine as appropriate for men and women.

The gender pay gap also varies depending on age.

Women in their 50s experience a greater pay gap than those on their 20s, 27% and 4% respectively.

The removal of part-time workers sees the gap disappear for women aged between 22 and 39.

The pay gap has greatly reduced over time, for example a women aged 35 today experiences a significantly reduced gap compared to a woman aged 35 ten years ago.

The gender pay gap headlines clearly do not show that whole story.

This does not mean to say that there are not issues surrounding gender embedded within the UK labour market, but when looking to address the problem it is important to know where to look and target the appropriate areas.

The part-time pay gap may be a good place to start.

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The Power of Diversity Conference is on Oct 5