Gender Pay Gap is Closing
Government statistics which found that the difference in average pay levels between men and women narrowed last year are evidence of a longer-term trend that the gender pay gap is closing, according to the Government Equalities Office (GEO).
The Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) annual survey of hours and earnings found that men in full-time work earned an average of £12.97 an hour before tax in 2009, compared with £11.39 an hour for women; a difference of 12.2% compared to 12.6% in 2008.
A GEO spokesman said the figures indicated a broader trend, with the gender pay gap having shrunk by more than 5% since 1997.
“Increased transparency over pay and more firms working towards stamping out unequal pay practices are helping to make an impact.”
However, the ONS data indicated that the pay divide was still flourishing in the private sector – full-time female employees in the private sector were paid on average 20.8% less than their male colleagues, compared to a difference of 11.6% in the public sector. On average, men working in the private sector were paid nearly a third more than women.
Commenting on the figures, the chief executive of equal rights organisation the Fawcett Society, Ceri Goddard, said that even though the gender pay gap had narrowed steadily since the Equal Pay Act in 1975, discrimination at work was still the single largest cause of inequality.
“The rate of change over the past four decades has been glacially slow, and while some employers are taking positive action to root out pay inequality, most are not,” she said.
This year’s Equality Bill, expected to come into force this autumn, is set to tackle the pay gap, banning so-called “secrecy clauses” to allow work colleagues to compare wages and therefore challenge employers. Larger firms, employing more than 250 staff, may also be required by law to disclose pay levels.
However, the Fawcett Society has said that the measures will not go far enough, and it has called on the Government to introduce mandatory pay audits in all workplaces, including small firms.
“Until all employers are legally bound to prevent pay discrimination occurring in the first place – by carrying out audits to expose unfair treatment – change will be slow in coming,” said Goddard.
According to ONS figures, the skilled trade sector had the widest inequality in pay between men and women, while the gap was narrowest for those in professional and technical jobs.