Closing gender pay gap will boost growth, Labour says

Opposition says economy needs to ‘work for working women’ if they are to return to employment

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Monday 29 May 2023 18:24 BST
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner (PA)

Closing the gender pay gap will help boost Britain’s flagging economy, Labour has said.

Writing for The Independent to mark the anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, deputy leader Angela Rayner suggested better wages could encourage women to return to work.

The opposition is pointing to figures showing 185,000 more women aged between 50 and 64 have become economically inactive since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The economy could be boosted by up to £7bn, were employment rates among this group to return to pre-pandemic levels,” Ms Rayner said.

“Tackling the gender pay gap will help to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7.”

The Equal Pay Act was introduced by Labour on 29 May 1970 following a campaign led by women workers.

But the latest figures suggest that at the current rate, the gender pay gap for women in their fifties will not close until 2050.

Ms Rayner said that despite progress, more needed to be done to secure gender equality in the workplace.

She said Labour would strengthen workplace protections for new mothers, give employers more support to “eradicate unequal pay”, and review “the failing parental leave system”.

This would make the UK economy “work for working women”, she added.

“Progress remains too slow. Unequal pay claims persist, while the gender pay gap is too great,” she wrote.

“The average working woman earns 15 per cent less than the typical working man, while women are still paid less than men for their work at four out of five employers.”

The government made pay gap reporting became mandatory for companies with more than 250 employees in 2017.

Research published this week by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) shows the national median pay gap declined by 0.7 per cent, from 12.9 per cent in 2021-22 to 12.2 per cent in 2022-23.

The median hourly pay gap meanwhile decreased from 9.8 per cent in 2021-22 to 9.2 per cent in 2022-23.

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