More women are in work - but what about the gender pay gap?

The UK’s gender pay gap is currently 22 per cent – the sixth worst in the EU

Related Topics

A report by the Office of National Statistics this week showed that the proportion of women in work has increased dramatically since 1971. Men are only 9 per cent more likely than women to be in work now, compared to 39 per cent more likely in the ‘70s.

A success story, some might say? Well, yes – but the job is only halfway complete.

The challenge now is to create equality within work. As the report showed, women are more likely to be in badly paid sectors – 77 per cent of UK admin and secretarial workers are female, for example. Women form two thirds of those earning less than a living wage and three quarters of those in part-time work. Parenthood continues to penalise.

This month in the European Parliament we agreed on a resolution that all Member States must aim to eliminate their gender pay gap by 2020. Some people might believe this is fanciful. As the ONS report showed, it has taken over 40 years to get women into work; how can we hope to remove the pay disparity in seven?

In my view, however, it is entirely achievable. Comparatively small steps, like the introduction of job-shares, can have a massive impact on women’s ability to juggle work with motherhood. And slight changes to how our education system prepares young people for employment can help break the damaging cycle which channels women into nursing and men into engineering.

As a British MEP the 2020 gender pay equality resolution is of particular interest to me. The UK’s gender pay gap is currently 22 per cent – the sixth worst in the EU. Since the recession we have performed especially badly compared to other Member States. At present the resolution is only a target, but if it becomes enshrined in law, as I hope it will be, then it will ask all countries to eliminate their respective gender pay gaps – by whatever means necessary – at a rate of 5 per cent a year.

What we have seen since 1970 – when the Equal Pay Act was passed – is an incomplete revolution in the relationship between women and work. We sit at the midway point. If we are to finish the process and create genuine employment parity then we need to be much more proactive. It is therefore vital that politicians of all tribes – as well as those in the media – unite behind the EU’s 2020 vision of gender pay equality for women. We cannot wait another 40 years.

Mary Honeyball is a Member of the European Parliament for London and a member of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee. She is Labour’s spokesperson in Europe for women.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in the new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power