Gender pay gap narrows to lowest ever levels

9 Dec

The disparity between men and women’s pay is less pronounced than it was a year ago, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The positive spin on this story is that this is a significant reduction in gender pay differences that could be hailed as a strong sign of progress, at last, for women in the workplace.

The ONS figures for April 2010 show a gender pay difference of 10.2%, which has dropped from 12.2% in 2009. This 10.2% is the narrowest gap since the ONS started compiling this data in 1997, when the difference between male and female full-time workers was 17%.

The median average weekly pay for men is £538, a rise of 1.3%; while for women working full time, the average wage was up 3.1% to £439. While 88% of men work full time, just 58% of women work full time.

While the equality legislation says that women have the right to be paid the same as a man for doing the same job,  it appears that age is a huge factor in determining how well women are remunerated compared with their male colleagues.

Women aged between 22 and 29 who work full time earn 2.1% more than men working full time; and this gap is 1.7% for part timers. The age group where the pay gap is most pronounced is 50—59, where there is a 17% differential between full-time men and full-time women.

The Independent has produced a helpful graphic, The Way We Work Now, setting out the ONS figures according to age, sector and occupation.

It will be interesting to see how many women take up their new right under the Equality Act 2010 that does away with pay secrecy, and allows workers to shine a light into the shadowy corners of pay inequality, and bring those differences out into the open.

In the meantime, if my calculations are correct, and we see a continued reduction in the pay gap, our daughters starting infant school now could be commanding equal pay by the time they’re in their mid-twenties and negotiating a salary for their second jobs.

However, my optimistic calculations are based on the ONS figures. Other studies offer rather more pessimistic projections, with a report in the summer from the Chartered Management Institute suggesting that equal pay for women is still 57 years away.

However, given the confidence and determination of many little girls today, who wouldn’t believe you if you told them they weren’t equal to the boys, I reckon debates about the gender pay gap may become anachronistic within the next generation.

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One Response to “Gender pay gap narrows to lowest ever levels”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Can the next generation of working women truly have it all? « womaneer - 12/12/2010

    […] Interesting comment piece from Janet Street-Porter in The Independent on Sunday, reflecting on the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that reveal women in their twenties are earning 2.1% more than their male colleagues. […]

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