UK gender pay gap shrinks to all-time low

The UK’s gender pay gap has fallen to 8.6% for full-time employees – its lowest level yet, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The overall gender pay gap for both full-time and part-time roles fell from 18.4% in 2017 to 17.9% this year, analysis of its latest Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data found.

The pay gap between men and women in full-time work dropped from 9.1% in 2017. For those in part-time employment, there remains a negative gender pay gap in favour of women as more women work in part time roles than men – this narrowed to 4.4% from 5.3% last year.

Despite the slight progress made in closing the gap between male and female average pay, Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers suggested more needed to be done.

“This is a practically static picture on pay inequality,” she said.

“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 economy. Improving our performance on gender equality in the workplace could increase GDP by £150 billion.”

ONS analysis of pay information by age found that the gap for those aged 18-39 in full-time employment is close to zero, but it begins to widen from 40 years old.

For all employees (in both full- and part-time work), the gender pay gap widens from 30 years of age, coinciding with an increase in part-time working – mainly by women.

The pay gap is largest among those in skilled trades occupations (23.9% – a reduction of 1% over the past year). This was followed by process plant and machine operatives (19.1%, a 1.1% decrease from last year) and managers, directors and senior officials (a 13.6% pay gap, a 1.2% change from 2017).

Organisations in London have the largest difference in male and female average pay at 13.7% (up slightly from 13.8% a decade ago).

However, Northern Ireland has a 3.5% pay gap in favour of women, compared with a 2.6% gap in favour of men in 2008.

Earlier this month the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that almost two-thirds of women took a potential employer’s gender pay gap into consideration when looking for a job.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee has also suggested that the pool of organisations required to publish a gender pay gap report should be widened to those with 50 or more staff (currently 250 or more) to further encourage employers to reduce the gap.

A survey yesterday revealed females entering the workforce had lower salary expectations than males. The research, commissioned by graduate job board Milkround, showed 33% of women are worried about low pay and expected to earn less than £20k in their first role, compared to 22% of men.

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