Women cut pay gap to earn 70% of male wages

WOMEN are slowly narrowing the pay gap, although average weekly earnings are still only 70 per cent of those of male workers, according to official figures released yesterday.

Higher pay rises for women of 8.4 per cent, compared with men at 6.6 per cent, reinforced a trend seen since figures on the breakdown of the sexes began to be compiled in 1970.

Statistics from the Government's New Earnings Survey also show that the gap between the highest and lowest-paid is at its widest for more than 20 years.

The highest-paid 10 per cent of workers - earning more than pounds 489 a week - receive 3.3 times the lowest 10 per cent. In 1970 the ratio was 2.5 times.

Excluding overtime, women's full-time hourly rates are 79 per cent of men's, compared with 63.1 per cent in 1970. At the beginning of 1980 they had risen to 73.5 per cent.

Average weekly pay for women in the survey was pounds 241, compared with pounds 340 for men. The average weekly wage for all workers topped pounds 300 for the first time, at pounds 305 or pounds 15,860 a year.

Pay rates increased generally by 7 per cent over the year but were lower for manual workers at 6.2 per cent.

The Equal Opportunities Commission welcomed the improvement in women's relative position. But Frank Spencer, its pay specialist, said full-time rates were not the only factor: 'We need to look at what is happening in industrial sectors dominated by women and part-time workers,' he said.

The Department of Employment said that women's wages were lower than those of men because they tended to be in lower- paid occupations and worked shorter hours.

Men, on average, worked 41.4 hours a week compared to the female average of 37.3 hours.

Male manual workers had the longest week at 44.5 hours, while female non-manual employees worked an average of 36.8 hours.

The figures also show that public-sector workers received bigger pay increases for the second year in succession. Over the past two years, private-sector staff have seen salaries rise by 14 per cent, compared with 21 per cent in public service.

On average, public-sector workers receive pounds 307.80 a week compared to pounds 303.30 in the private sector. Overtime, shift pay and bonus rates made up 11 per cent of all employees' gross wages.

The survey shows that male medical practitioners are the highest paid group of workers with an average annual salary of pounds 39,291, followed by treasurers and company financial managers on pounds 38,537 and male solicitors on pounds 32,427.

Female medical practitioners topped the women's pay league on pounds 31,985, representing 81 per cent of the male grade. Women solicitors had an average of pounds 23,883, 73 per cent of men's pay.

At the bottom of the scale, male workers in pubs and bars were the lowest-paid men on pounds 8,767 a year, while female bar staff were paid an average of pounds 5,922.

New Earnings Survey 1992 Part A; HMSO; pounds 11.50.

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