Women who work full-time earn 30 per cent less a year than their male counterparts, despite the increasing number of women moving into traditionally "male" jobs, new research reveals.
A report published today, called "Social Inequalities", shows government initiatives to reduce the gap between pay for men and women have had little effect.
The Government has promised to support the Equal Opportunities Commission in making equal pay a priority, simplifying the claims procedures for equal pay for equal work, and in helping more women move into jobs traditionally held by men, which tend to be better paid.
But research by the Office of National Statistics shows that in April 1999 a full-time male employee earned, on average, £23,412 a year. The average for women was £16,481 a year, 30 per cent less. The overall average salary was £20,000.
Employment specialists said that while women were moving into male-dominated professions including the police, engineering and law, they were still more likely to hold the jobs that paid less. These included nursing and hairdressing, where men were found to be paid more for the work.
Julie Mellor, the chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "The findings confirm the urgency of the EOC's campaign to tackle the pay gap. Equal pay is an essential element of fairness at work, and fairness at work means employers will be able to recruit and retain the best people for their organisation." She stressed that employers and employees benefited from paying women and men the same for doing the same work.
Ms Mellor said that very few companies and organisations had ever done a pay audit. Last year the EOC set up an employer-led equal pay task force to identify what actionemployers, trade unions and the Government needed to take. "If every employer audited their pay system we could eliminate the pay gap very quickly," she said.
Margaret Hodge, the minister for Employment and Equal Opportunities, said the research was "really worrying."
Baroness Jay of Paddington, minister for Women, said: "This research yet again shows that women are paying a heavy price for being female. For too long we have accepted the difference in men and women's pay as the inevitable consequence of being female."
Frances Drever, researcher at the Office of National Statistics and co-author of the report, said the wide pay gap could be partly explained by the fact that men tended to work longer hours. The report shows that, on average, a male manager earns £36,000 a year while a female manager earns £24,000. A male health professional or teacher earns an average of £30,000 a year while a woman in the same profession earns £24,000.
Despite the wage gap, the proportion of women with one or more dependent children who earn rose by more than 10 per cent between 1987 and 1999, to 70 per cent of all mothers. The number of working fathers, in contrast, decreased.
The report also showed that more women, in the past 100 years, have moved into traditional male jobs. In 1891 there were no women employed by the police, the armed forces or in the legal system. The latest figures show that 28 per cent of lawyers, 11 per cent of the police force and 7 per cent of the armed forces are now women.
However, despite these advances, the latest research published by the Government's Women's Unit shows that 60 per cent of women are still employed in the 10 "feminised industries", which include sales assistants, secretaries, nurses, care assistants and primary and nursery teachers.Reuse content