Women in their twenties smash glass ceiling to reverse pay gap

British women in their twenties have smashed the glass ceiling and are now being paid more than their male counterparts – reversing the traditional "gender gap" in pay for the first time. This is the only age group for which this is true.

According to the Office for National Statistics, women aged 22 to 29 now earn 1.7 per cent more than men in full-time work. Last year men in their twenties earned slightly more – 0.7 per cent.

Overall, and more than 40 years since the original equal pay legislation, the gender gap in pay has fallen to 10.2 per cent this year, down from 12.2 per cent in 2009, and the lowest ever. In 1971 men were on average paid 36.5 per cent more than women.

The ONS also revealed astonishingly low pay rates among thousands of workers not covered by the minimum wage, either because they are "trainees" or employers ignoring rules.

Even on official figures, as many as 30,000 workers receive less than £2.90 an hour, the equivalent of £116 for a 40-hour week. In all, some 271,000 workers are paid below the appropriate national minimum wage rate – up 34,000, or 14.3 per cent on 2009. Although not revealed in the official data, some of this may be down to employers reclassifying their youngest workers as "trainees" and thus evading the minimum wage. There is also a much larger shadow of informal sweatshops outside the law, and defying health and safety rules as well as employment law.

The young are especially badly paid: the number of 15- and 16-year-olds earning less than £3.57 an hour, the minimum for that age bracket is up by 1,000 to 15,000 this year – leaving them with a gross salary of £142.80 for a 40-hour week, at most.

Click HERE for the way we work now graphic.

The social revolution taking place among the nation's twentysomethings is being driven by a rise in the number of women attending university and their subsequent entry into the better paid professions, notably the law: around 63 per cent of solictors under the age of 30 are female.

But female success in their twenties is not sustained because many leave employment to start families and do not return to work, or at least do not return to the same sort of full-time employment at the same levels of pay.

Recent legislation protecting post-maternity employment rights may erode the still marked differential in male and female pay for those further on in their careers. Full-time working men in their thirties are paid 2.9 per cent more than women, and this rises to a hefty 16.1 per cent for men in their forties.

Recently, recession-driven trends in the jobs market have also narrowed the traditional gap between men and women. Last year was the first where women overtook men in part-time pay, and the differential has widened again this year – to 4 per cent from 2.5 per cent. The slump saw many traditional well-paid jobs in sectors dominated by men, such as construction and manufacturing, disappear, and men have faced the same sort of casualisation in working conditions that women have known for many decades, and seem to have come off even worse.

The drift towards part-time and temporary working, much accelerated in the downturn, has hit men harder than women, the ONS reported.

The decline in private sector pay compared with the public sector has also been a factor in pushing women's pay generally closer to that of men. There are twice as many women in the public sector as men, in sharp contrast with the private sector, and their ability to win higher pay awards has helped narrow the gap.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Reach Volunteering: Trustees with Finance, Fundraising and IT skills

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses reimbursable: Reach Volunteering: St...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago