The publication of the latest statistics on the gender pay gap has provoked a row between the government and the leading women’s equality body.
The 2005 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, from the Office for National Statistics, shows that gross annual earnings for full-time men were £25,100 (up 3.6% from £24,200 in 2004), and £19,400 for women (up 4.8% from £18,600).
This means the gender pay gap narrowed by just 0.6% from 17.8% in 2004, to 17.2% in 2005. The gap for part-time women remains at just under 40%.
Minister for women Tessa Jowell portrayed the fall as “excellent news”, although she referred to the median pay gap figure of 13.2%, rather than the average of 17.2%.
“It is excellent news that the gender pay gap is now at its lowest level since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act 30 years ago,” she said.
But the acting chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Jenny Watson, said the figures were “grim”.
“Thirty years on, the Equal Pay Act has reached the limits of its usefulness,” she said. “Unless radical action is taken, another generation of women can expect to suffer the injustice of unequal pay.”