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Equal Pay Day: Five statistics that sum up how much progress still needs to be made

The full-time median gender pay gap in the UK, based on hourly earnings, currently stand at 9.1 per cent

Josie Cox
Business Editor
Thursday 09 November 2017 18:40 GMT
The gender pay gap is stubborn for a number of reasons, including outright discrimination and the fact that women tend to cluster in low-skilled and low-paid work
The gender pay gap is stubborn for a number of reasons, including outright discrimination and the fact that women tend to cluster in low-skilled and low-paid work (Getty)

Friday marks Equal Pay Day in the UK. It’s the day on which women, as a whole, effectively stop earning money based on the official gender pay gap that still persists.

Because the gap moves, so should Equal Pay Day, but over the last 12 months so little progress has been made on pay equality that it falls on exactly the same day in 2017 as it did a year ago – 51 days before the end of the year.

Here are five data points that demonstrate just how much work still needs to be done in the UK to reach pay equality between the sexes.

The gap stands at 9.1 per cent

Government data published last month showed that the full-time gender pay gap based on median hourly earnings had fallen by 0.3 percentage points to 9.1 per cent in 2017, which is down from 9.4 per cent in 2016 and the lowest since the Office for National Statistics started recording that figure in 1997.

Nonetheless, progress has been sluggish. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said at the time that the figures indicate the gender pay gap is still “decades” away from being closed.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that it was of paramount importance for the Government to “crank up the pressure on employers”.

“Companies shouldn’t just be made to publish their gender pay gaps. They should be forced to explain how they’ll close them,” she said.

Under legislation introduced in April, any UK business with at least 250 employees has 12 months to publish data on the difference between how much they pay men and women at different seniority levels, but critics have said that the reporting won’t be granular enough to facilitate real change.

The UK was 53rd in the WEF’s report

In a sweeping annual report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) earlier this month, the UK received a damning bill of health on economic participation and opportunity, scoring only 53rd out of the 144 nations examined.

The WEF said that the poor score was largely because of the gaping divide in unpaid work between the sexes. The report showed that 57 per cent of all work that UK women do is unpaid, compared to 32 per cent for men.

It also found that the mean monthly women’s earnings were just 66 per cent of men’s, putting the UK in 95th spot overall for estimated earned income.

Commenting on the report, Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, told The Independent at the time that the findings were evidence of the fact that “our economy does not see women”.

Women do 74 per cent of childcare

The gender pay gap is stubborn for a number of reasons, including outright discrimination and the fact that women tend to cluster in low-skilled and low-paid work, but there are also differences in caring responsibilities between men and women.

According to a report recently compiled by law firm Pinsent Mason and the Fawcett Society, one of the UK’s largest charities promoting women’s rights, women are responsible for 74 per cent of the time spent on childcare.

Perhaps as a result of this, women, following a divorce, have been found to have a 10 per cent long-term dip in income, while divorced men’s available incomes increase.

Women are four times more likely to give up work to care

On a similar note, and also according to research done by the Fawcett Society, women are four times more likely than men to leave their job as a result of being so-called “sandwich carers” – or people who look after both a child, or children, and adults.

The society also found that these two-track caring roles often happen at a later stage in life, when the pay gap becomes widest. Many women also struggle to go back to a well-paid career after taking time out after their late 30s, but motherhood at any age has been found to significantly widen the average pay gap.

Only 28 per cent of top business people are women

Finally, the women who do make it to the top of business are still in a depressingly small minority.

The major government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review, published this week, shows that progress has been made towards getting more women onto boards, but the proportion of females in those positions is still only at 28 per cent.

The FTSE 100 also still only had six female chief executive officers during the fiscal year 2016.

In politics, the picture doesn’t look much brighter either. Last month’s WEF report put the UK in 38th spot globally in terms of women in parliament and in 23rd spot in terms of women in ministerial positions.

Having a female head of state may provide a role model for some young women striving for the top, but the figures indicate that decades of hard work still lie before us if we want to achieve true gender parity.

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