*New figures from the Office of National Statistics published in December 2013 show the pay gap widening for the first time in five years. This page will be updated shortly, in the mean time read the press release*
What’s the problem?
Over 40 years after the Equal Pay Act came into force in the UK women still face a stark gap in their earnings compared to men’s and experience one of the highest pay gaps in the EU.
In 2012, comparing all work, women earned 18.6% less per hour than men. Comparing those in full-time work, women earned an average of 14.9% less per hour than men – this means that for every £1 a man takes home, a woman takes home 85p.
The pay gap varies across sectors and regions, rising to up to 33% in the City of London and 55% in the finance sector.
Why do we still have a pay gap?
A range of things contribute to the pay gap:
‘Women’s work’ is undervalued and low paid
Outdated stereotypes around men and women’s value in the workplace still exist, which leads to women and men doing different types of work. In addition, ‘men’s work’ is generally given a higher value both socially and economically. Jobs traditionally done by women, such as cleaning, catering and caring, are undervalued and paid less than jobs traditionally done by men, such as construction, transportation and skilled trades.
Overall, women constitute the majority of those in low paid work: almost two-thirds (63%) of those earning £7 per hour or less are women.
More women work part-time
Women in the UK still do the bulk of unpaid care for children and elderly relatives – thus many women require part-time positions in order to balance work with their caring commitments: almost three-quarters (74%) of part-time workers are women.
Part-time jobs are typically low paid, with fewer prospects for promotion and access to training. In 2012, the gap between the average hourly earnings of those in full-time work and part-time work was a staggering 37%.
The ‘Motherhood Penalty’
A lack of flexible working opportunities often means that women pay a penalty at work for their caring roles and lose out on promotions, training opportunities and job progression more generally.
Added to this women are often faced with negative attitudes, discrimination and even dismissal in the workplace because of their roles, actual or potential, as mothers and carers.
Flexible working arrangements should be in place to enable women to fully participate in, and progress in the labour market – this is vital for women and the economy at large. More should also be done to encourage fathers to spend more time caring.
Discrimination hasn’t gone away
Forty years since the Dagenham machinists took action and the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, direct and indirect discrimination against women still persists in the workplace. Women council workers in Birmingham recently found out they were missing out on bonuses of up to 160% that were being rewarded to those working in male-dominated areas, such as gardening.
What do we want to see happen?
We are calling on government to implement a comprehensive women’s employment strategy to tackle both the roots causes of the pay gap, as well as the current additional threats to women’s pay presented by the movement of jobs from the public to the private sector as the public sector is cut. Women face a considerably higher gender pay gap in private sector: an overall gap of 24% versus a gap of 17% in the public sector.
This strategy should include action to:
- Increase the value of low paid work, where women tend to cluster – this is particularly important as more women are likely to move into low paid work in the private sector as better paid opportunities for women in the public sector diminish
- Improve the law on flexible working and do more to encourage businesses to utilise flexible working practices
- Tackle occupational segregation and the under-representation of women in male-dominated and better-paid industries such as science and technology. This should include action to tackle occupational segregation in apprenticeships
- Address the specific barriers that single parents – the majority of whom are women –face in securing decently paid work
- Promote and encourage uptake of the new system of flexible parental leave when it comes into force in 2015
In particular, we would also like to see government make a clear and firm commitment to addressing unequal pay by implementing section 78 of the Equality Act 2010 which would require businesses (of more than 250 employees) to measure and publish data on their gender pay gaps.
Visit the Women’s Employment section of our website for more details on the types of things we would like to see in a dedicated women’s employment strategy.
More detailed information on the causes of the gender pay gap and the solutions Fawcett would like to see can also be found in our report Equal Pay – Where Next? (available to download on the right)
What YOU can do!
Join Us Fawcett is the UK’s leading campaign for women’s equality – at home, at work and in public life. We work on issues as varied as equal pay, cuts to benefits, to the lack of women in positions of power and the shockingly low rape conviction rape. We rely on our members to fund our work – join us for £5 a month and help make the UK a more equal place.
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