Saturday, April 21, 2007

Lies, Damn Lies and Gender Pay Gap Stastics

You may have noticed over the past few months a lot of press on the issue of the Gender Pay Gap - the percentage difference between average incomes for men and women. The UK national figure at present according to the Equal Opportunities Commission is 17.1% - which means that the average hourly rate of pay for women working full time is 17.1% less than the average hourly rate of pay for men - and that figure has not changed much over the past five years. However as you will see shortly - the difference is actually a lot worse than this

One of the reasons for the attention to this inequality was that at the end of March most local authorities failed to meet the deadline set 10 years ago to eliminate unequal pay for male and female employees. The gender pay gap in the public sector is now 13.8% - better than the national average indicating that private sector discrimination is still rife - but this hides the fact that the health sector generally has a gender pay gap of over 32%.

Bearing in mind that 80% of employees in health and social work are female it's pretty clear that men have a seriously disproportionate hold on higher paid jobs in the sector. What alarmed me recently was to discover that my local Primary Care Trust's draft Gender Equality Scheme (it's plan to meet the new Gender Equality Duty to eliminate discrimination and promote equality) didn't even mention this, let alone set our any plans to fix the problem.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 has been around now for 37 years - The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 for 32 years and we are told that this legislation has helped to reduce the gender pay gap from 28% to 17% - or has it?

Here is how the truth can be buried by statistics - the actual percentage as you will see depends on whether you look at it from the perspective of a man (how much less do women earn) or the perspective of a woman (how much more do women need to earn to catch up.)

The official gender pay gap figure means that women earn 17.1% less than men. But look at it from the perspective of women and the problem is bigger. The average hourly rate of pay for women will need to rise by 20.7% to catch up with men, assuming men don't get a pay rise.

But this still would not fix the problem because when we look a little deeper we discover that the average weekly income for women is £393 - that is 27% less than the £537 men earn - this is because even working full time, women tend to work shorter hours and work less overtime. So looked at from the position of a woman again, this means she needs an increase of 37% to catch up with men.

But - that still would not fix the problem because a disproportionate number of women work part time - often because they have caring and family responsibilities, but also because often the only work available is part time. Furthermore, because of career breaks women in retirement also receive substantially less then men.

So the average weekly income of all women is just £227 compared to £408 for men - a Gender Pay Gap of 44% - which is pretty alarming - but when we look at this from a woman's perspective is it close to criminal - In order to catch up with men, women would need on average an increase of 80%. Lets look at that again:

Men earn on average 80% more than women.

It's hardly surprising is it that women are now taking legal action over unequal pay - unfortunately those who really need the help because they are mothers trying to support a family on part time minimum wages from a retail or health organisation will probably not be able to take legal action because the entire sector is low paid employing almost entirely women.

If you would like to see all the EOC 2006 Facts about Men and Women in Britain you can download them here

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