Discrimination does not play an important role in the gender pay gap, research has found.
Should we mind the gap?, a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs, also claims there is too much “song and dance” made about the pay gap between men and women.
Research found women’s part-time earnings were now higher than those of male part-timers, and that the UK’s pay gap fared much better than many other countries.
For men and women in their 20s, the median full-time pay gap was now less than 1%, and men were found to have a greater chance than women of losing their jobs and suffering serious injury at work.
The report author, professor J R Shackleton, of the University of East London, said attempts by the government to cut the pay gap were wasted effort.
“The widespread belief that the gender pay gap is a reflection of deep-rooted discrimination by employers is ill-informed and an unhelpful contribution to the debate,” Shackleton said.
“The pay gap is falling but is also a reflection of individuals’ lifestyle preferences. Government can’t regulate or legislate these away – and shouldn’t try to.”
Of top 25 ideal employers for women, 12 were in relatively low-paid public or voluntary sector, against only four for men.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “This report has created a fiction from government statistics and has obviously ignored the tens of thousands of women every year who come to their union for help, having been discriminated against by their employer at work.
“Progress on closing the pay gap has slowed to a snail’s pace – falling by just 0.3% last year. Decisive action – including more family-friendly working and mandatory pay transparency – is needed to end this injustice.”
Separate research of more than 500 mothers by Workingmums.co.uk found nearly four in five were looking to go back to work or increase their present working hours due to the credit crunch.
Mandy Garner, spokeswoman for WorkingMums.co.uk, said: “Employers should not get caught out by reducing their resources. Working mothers are a fantastic pool of talent that many businesses should be calling upon.”