DECREASE IN GENDER PAY GAP WELCOME, BUT SMALL COMFORT FOR LOW PAID WOMEN

Commenting on the publication of the 2014 ONS Annual Survey of Hourly Earnings bulletin, Dr Eva Neitzert, Deputy CEO, the Fawcett Society said:

“We are pleased to welcome figures today that show the gender pay gap – one of the key indicators of inequality between women and men – has narrowed by 1.5 percent from last year to 17.6 per cent (mean figure for all work excluding overtime) [1]. This means that women now earn 82p for every £1 a man earns.

“This narrowing of the gap marks an important step in the right direction for women at a time where many continue to face serious financial pressures. As today’s figures also reveal, weekly earnings for full-time employees increased by only 0.1% on last year – the smallest annual growth since records began. Adjusted for inflation, this actually amounts to a real terms decrease of 1.6 per cent.

“The implications of this stagnant growth are particularly worrying for the lowest paid – two-thirds of whom are women. Recent research from the Fawcett Society [2] reveals that low paid women are being firmly shut out of the recovery. Rather than feeling the gains of growth, life for the UK’s 3 million low paid women is becoming increasingly tough – nearly half feel worse off now than five years ago, nearly 1 in 10 have obtained a loan from a pernicious pay day lender in the last twelve months and nearly 1 in 12 of those with children have been forced to obtain food from a food bank in the past twelve months.

“What’s more, both austerity measures and the shape of the economic recovery are increasing the already disproportionate numbers of women in low paid work  –  since the start of the crisis in 2008, almost a million (826,000) women have moved into the types of jobs that are typically temporary, insecure and low paid. Overall 1 in 4 of all female employees in the UK is now in low paid work, compared with almost 1 in 7 men.

“We urgently need to tackle the unacceptably low wages paid to women by substantially increasing the value of national minimum wage. Government should also take the lead in supporting the take-up of the Living Wage by encouraging local councils to adopt it and through instating it across Whitehall.

“Further, whilst the narrowing of the gender pay gap is to be welcomed, now is not the time to become complacent. The recent news that ASDA store workers – the majority of whom are female – are taking legal action on the basis that they are being paid up to £4 p/h less for doing similar tasks preformed by the largely male warehouse workers reminds us yet again that, even 44 yeas after the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, this kind of discrimination continues to persist. The time has come for greater transparency on pay. Big businesses – those with over 250 employees – should be required to measure and publish their gender pay gaps.”

 

Endnotes:

  1. Men’s mean gross hourly earnings for all work (excluding overtime) were £16.44 in April 2014.  Women’s mean gross hourly earnings for all work (excluding overtime) were £13.53 in April 2014. This means the gender pay differences for all workers now stands at 17.6 per cent. Full ONS ASHE statistical bulletin available here: hhttp://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_385428.pdf
  2. The Changing Labour Market 2, Fawcett Society, August 2014: http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/latest/press-releases/new-research-low-paid-women-firmly-shut-recovery/

 

 

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