Static at 14 per cent: “At current rates, we’ll never close the gender pay gap”

Fawcett Society research based on ONS figures reveals that the UK gender pay gap has been static for three years. Improving our performance on gender equality in the workplace could increase GDP by £150 billion, yet this is an untapped opportunity as lazy stereotypes and harassment and discrimination against women remain all too real.

The gender pay gap, calculated by the mean average for full-time work, was today found to be at 14.1 per cent. Figures from 2016 were revised up from 13.9 per cent to 14.1 per cent – meaning that the gap has now been static at that figure for the last three years.

“This is a static picture on pay inequality. At current rates of change we will never close the gender pay gap,” said Fawcett Society CEO, Sam Smethers. “This shocking lack 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 economy. Improving our performance on gender equality in the workplace could increase GDP by £150 billion.”

Fawcett primarily calculates the gap using the mean average, as this takes into account the fact that more men than women are earning higher wages at the top, which is an important part of the overall pay gap. This is the figure the organisation uses for Equal Pay Day.

In 2017, Equal Pay Day is on 10th November, which means on average women are essentially working for free after that date. Fawcett marks Equal Pay Day each year as the point in the year when women stop earning relative to men. It varies with the actual gap in each year, and is based on the data available at the beginning of the year. So in 2017 Equal Pay Day is on the 10th November, because the most recently available ASHE 2016 data showed that the full-time mean gender pay gap was 13.9 per cent – the same as it was in the year before.

Research has revealed time and again that there is no single cause for the gap. Important factors that compound the problem are discrimination, undervaluing roles predominantly done by women, dominance of men in best paid positions and unequal caring responsibilities.

The gap is wider for older women, ethnic minorities, and those in certain occupational sectors such as skilled trades), as well women on higher earnings.

The gap varies across the life course – it is at its lowest for women in their twenties (5.5 per cent) and opens up significantly for women in their fifties (18.6 per cent). Even though today’s younger women have a smaller pay gap at the moment as they age, research suggests that their pay gap will widen.

It also differs across industries. For example, it is over 32.8 per cent in finance and insurance and less than 6 per cent for those working in administrative and support services.

Graduate women from ethnic minority backgrounds have been found to have lower pay three years after graduation than their white British peers.

Fawcett research finds that women from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds have a 26.2 per cent aggregate pay gap with White British men, and black African women have a 19.6 per cent full-time pay gap with white British Men.

From April next year, large employers will be required to publish their gender pay gap, but this is only the first step to change, said Fawcett CEO Smethers. “We need to see a complete overhaul in working practices, more support for women and men sharing care, and and end to lazy stereotypes, workplace harassment and discrimination that hold women back.”

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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