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Girls & Women

The Gender Pay Gap Is at Its Lowest Level in Britain Ever


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The gender pay gap for full-time workers in the UK is at its lowest ever — with the median difference in full-time hourly pay down from 9.1% to 8.6% in the year up to April 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics

But, while it’s great that we’re moving in the right direction, we can do better than a 0.5% drop. 

At this rate, as pointed out by campaigners, there’ll be another generation of women spending their whole working lives earning less than men. 

So we’re not celebrating just yet. 

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“This is a practically static picture on pay inequality,” said Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society. “This slow rate of progress means without significant action, women starting work today and in decades to come will spend their entire working lives earning less than men.”

“It’s a loss they can’t afford and it’s a missed opportunity for our economic,” she said. “Improving our performance on gender equality in the workplace could increase [gross domestic product] by £150 billion.” 

Frances O’Grady, Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary, added: “Working women won’t be celebrating this negligible decrease in the gender pay gap.”

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“The government needs to crank up the pressure on employers,” she said. “Companies shouldn’t just be made to publish their gender pay gaps, they should be legally required to explain how they’ll close them, and bosses who flout the law should be fined.” 

The problem isn’t as pronounced for those under 40 as it is for older female workers, who are still much more likely to be underpaid. 

For those aged 22 to 29, the difference is 1.3%, according to the ONS. But for workers aged 50 to 59, women can earn as much as 15.5% less, reported the BBC

“Millennials appear to be leading the charge, with younger men and women edging towards pay parity,” said Laura Suter, personal finance specialist at AJ Bell. “We now need to see this cohort of women encouraged to progress through to senior management roles.”

Related Stories April 5, 2018 78% of UK Companies Pay Men More Than Women, Final Figures Reveal

“Focus should also turn to addressing the larger pay gaps that persist for older employees,” she said. 

The difference in the pay of all male and female workers, including those in part-time jobs, now stands at 17.9% — down from 18.4% — according to the Press Association. 

This is the first time that national pay gap statistics have been released since Britain’s largest employers — those with over 250 staff — had to reveal the truth about their own gender pay gaps in April. 

Related Stories July 19, 2017 Seven White Men Dominate BBC Top Earners, Reveals Huge Gender and Ethnic Pay Gap

Of large companies in the UK, reports showed, 78% paid men more on average than women. And the Fawcett Society at the time described the reporting as a “game changer” in terms of workplace culture and practices. 

Over 10,000 companies published their findings across the country, with more than 1,000 of those releasing the data on the last day before the deadline. 

The gender pay gap movement really came into the spotlight when the BBC published a list of its top earners, meaning everybody paid over £150,000, back in July 2017. Of the 96 names on the list, just a third were female, and only 10 were from BAME backgrounds.