Gender pay gap falls to an all-time low

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The Independent Online

The gap between the pay of men and of women has fallen to an all-time low, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS said that, since 1997, the “gender gap” between the typical pay of a man and a woman in full time work has fallen to 12.2 per cent – still a source of injustice but much lower than the 17.4 per cent it stood at in 1997, and much bigger disparities before then. The ONS add that, since last year, the gender gap has narrowed for full time and part time work. Indeed, women are typically earning more than men in part time jobs – 2 per cent more, though that is down from a gap high of 3.7 per cent seen last year, that is in favour of female employees.

Overall, that is taking full and part time work together; the gender gap stands at 22 per cent, down on the 22.5 per cent difference recorded in 2008 but marginally up on the all-time low of 21.9 per cent seen in 2007.

The figures suggest that years of official attempts to foster equality of opportunity in the labour market, and the efforts of many companies and public sector bodies to boost the fair treatment of women have begun to yield some concrete financial results.

There is also some evidence that women’s pay and job opportunities have suffered less badly during the recession than those of men, which again may have narrowed the gap between men and women. The heaviest job losses during the recession have been in male dominated sectors such as construction and manufacturing, and there ha s been a long term trend – accelerated by the recession – that has seen men drift from full-time and well paid traditional occupations into a the type of more casualised badly paid work that was traditionally the e lot of female workers. The number of men unemployed has increased by almost 50 per cent during the downturn, and the number of women unemployed by 33.4 per cent, with unemployment rates rising by 3.0 percentage points and 1.6 percentage points respectively. The gap between black and white employment prospects is much larger than the male/female one.

The Government has included provisions in its current Equality Bill to require private organisations with more than 250 employees to report on gender pay gaps if too few are doing so voluntarily by 2013. Such reporting is compulsory in the public sector. It marks almost four decades of legislation to secure equality. The first Equal Pay Act, was passed in 1970.