UK’s gender pay gap is narrowing, but women are still ‘hard done by’

The UK’s gender gap is gradually narrowing, but women still have a way to go in matching the earning level of their male counterparts.

According to researchers from the University of Manchester and City, University of London, the pay gap has declined from 19% in 2017 to 13.4% in 2015, yet this is due to a number of factors, including economic conditions changing.

Professor Wendy Oslen, University of Manchester, prepared the report and said: “Women are still hard done by. We know the gender pay gap fell in the UK, but it is still at 17% and women still face a gap after allowing for many other casual factors. While the most recent declines in the gender pay gap are welcome, they also need to be understood within the context of declining real wages.”

The report, published by the Department for Education, was in response to the latest British Household Panel Survey and United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Survey.

Part time employment is now found to exert downward pressure on the pay gap, as more men are doing low-wage part time work than previously (11.9%, up from 9.7% in 2007).

There is also an increase in women who have negotiated a move to part-time employment with their current employer, which has meant that their wages are on average higher than those who have had to obtain part-time hours elsewhere.

Researcher Dr Vanessa Gash, at City, said: “While previous research has found that many women have had to occupationally downgrade in pursuit of reduced-hours posts, recent changes in policy may be limiting such flows to lower-calibre positions.”

“Though many part-time jobs continue to be of poor quality – they are less likely to be permanent of unionised – there are also many part-time workers employed in the public sector, which is typically regarded as having preferential working conditions over others,” she added.

The report follows a UK government initiative for all companies with over 250 employees to provide data on the gender pay gap among their employees.

Despite this progress, UK women still earn an average of £1.62 less than men per hour, according to the study, which is said to be mainly due to men having longer full-time careers on average – 17.8 years compared with 13.2 years for women.

The report shows that the pay gap is narrowing, although the difference in pay between male and female counterparts in the UK remains one of the highest in Europe.

The report does point out that 57 pence of the pay gap is ‘unexplained’, which they argue could be a result of differences in the behaviour of employers towards women, resulting in a strong bias towards men in male-dominated professional and managerial roles.

Dr Nash said: “The next biggest driver concerns observed and unobserved characteristics associated with being female. While we cannot definitely say what these factors are, they are likely to be a combination of discrimination against women and ongoing differences between male and female behaviour in the workplace.”

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