The gender pay gap has fallen below 10% for the first time after women's earnings increased faster than men's in the past year, according to official figures today.
The gap between men's and women's median full-time hourly earnings fell from 10.1% in April 2010 to 9.1% in April of this year, said the Office for National Statistics.
The change followed a 1.9% increase in women's earnings - up from £11.69 an hour to £11.91 - compared with a rise of 0.8% for men, from £13 to £13.11.
The gender pay gap for part-time workers was -5.6%, widening from -4.3% last year, which means that part-time women are paid more than part-time men.
The pay gap based on all employees fell from 19.8% to 19.5%.
Other data from the ONS showed that median weekly earnings for full-timers increased by 0.4%, or £2, to £501. Public sector workers saw a rise of 0.3%, from £554 in 2010 to £556 this year, while in private firms the increase was 0.8%, from £473 a week to £476.
There was a widening in the gap between the highest and lowest-paid workers, with hourly earnings of the best paid employees increasing by 1.8%, compared with 0.1% for the lowest paid.
The region where employees had the highest full-time median gross weekly earnings was London, at £651, while the lowest was Northern Ireland at £451.
The district with the highest-paying jobs was the City of London (a median of £981 a week full-time) and the district with the lowest-paid jobs was Torridge in Devon (£333).
The highest paid occupation was directors and chief executives of major organisations (£1,956 a week full-time), while the lowest was school mid-day assistants (£233 a week full-time).
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Today's fall in the gender pay gap is very welcome, though with female unemployment at a 23-year high the main concern for many women will be keeping jobs, let alone securing higher pay.
"Today's figures confirm that 2011 has been a year of wage stagnation, with pay rises far outstripped by inflation, and low-paid employees being squeezed particularly hard.
"Falling wages and self-defeated austerity have been the main reasons for the UK's economic woes, rather than a eurozone crisis which has yet to fully show up in official statistics.
"Decent wages are the great ignored issue in the Government's search for pro-growth policies, but wage-led growth is the only way to secure a sustainable economic recovery."