Equal Pay Day: Where does the UK stand in global equality rankings?

It's probably not as high up as you think - and the pay gap is widening

Lizzie Dearden@lizziedearden
Tuesday 04 November 2014 14:07
Labour is to place a commitment to equalise pay between men and women at the heart of its manifesto for the next election
Labour is to place a commitment to equalise pay between men and women at the heart of its manifesto for the next election

Equal Pay Day is putting the focus on closing the gender pay gap around the world – but where does the UK stand in the global rankings?

According to the World Economic Forum, it lags behind countries including Nicaragua, Bulgaria and Burundi by economic, as well as political and educational standards.

The UK fell out of the top 20 most gender-equal countries in the world for the first time this year, hitting a low of 26 in the 2014 Global Gender Gap Report.

Average wages for women fell by £2,700 in a year to £15,400, according to the forum, while the average salary for men was unchanged at £24,800.

Overall the report ranked Iceland as the most “equal” country in the world, closely followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden. At the other end of the scale, Yemen was the least equal country ahead of Pakistan and Chad.

Campaigners in London, 1954, before the Equal Pay Act 1970 was passed

The UK was ranked 46th for economic participation and opportunity and 32nd for educational attainment.

Figures released by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) estimated that just one in 15 women who are working full-time earn £50,000 or more per year, compared to one in seven men.

The Fawcett Society, which organises Equal Pay Day in the UK, said the widening gender gap for full-time workers is 15.7 per cent, meaning that women “effectively work for free” for nearly two months of the year.

Section 78 of the 1970 Act - the part that requires businesses to publish data about the pay of the men and women they employ - is still not being enforced

But in some sectors, TUC’s figures showed the gulf was even wider. Full-time female solicitors, for example, earn over £10,000 (20 per cent) a year less, on average, than their male counterparts despite outnumbering them.

Some critics suggest that factors like women's career paths and career breaks for childbirth distort the figures, but the Fawcett Society argued that jobs traditionally done by women, such as cleaning, catering and caring, are undervalued and paid less than jobs traditionally done by men, such as construction, transportation and manually skilled trades.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “It is small wonder that Britain is plummeting down the international league tables when it comes to gender equality.

“Four decades on from the Equal Pay Act women are still losing out on pay and career opportunities.

“It feels like the glass ceiling is getting stronger, not weaker, and we need a much tougher approach to stop future generations of women from suffering this pay penalty.”

The top 20 gender-equal states

1. Iceland

2. Finland

3. Norway

4. Sweden

5. Denmark

6. Nicaragua

7. Rwanda

8. Ireland

9. Philippines

10. Belgium

11. Switzerland

12. Germany

13. New Zealand

14. Netherlands

15. Latvia

16. France

17. Burundi

18. South Africa

19. Canada

20. United States

The bottom 20 gender-equal states

123. Tunisia

124. Bahrain

125. Turkey

126. Algeria

127. Ethiopia

128. Oman

129. Egypt

130. Saudi Arabia

131. Mauritania

132. Guinea

133. Morocco

134. Jordan

135. Lebanon

136. Côte d’Ivoire

137. Iran

138. Mali

139. Syria

140. Chad

141. Pakistan

142. Yemen

Rankings from the 2014 Global Gender Gap Report

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