Britain’s gender pay gap is narrowing but won’t close until 2041

A new PwC report reveals that when it comes to women’s pay, the UK is below the OECD average

Britain’s gender pay gap is narrowing but won’t close until 2041

The last few years have seen a drive for greater gender equality on these shores. From Lord Davies pushing FTSE 100 companies to have 25% of women on their boards to new initiatives like Allbright and Blooming Founders supporting female entrepreneurship, British businesses have seemingly started to take equality seriously. However, Blighty is still trailing behind other countries when it comes to the gender pay gap.

Having measured five indicators across 33 OECD countries for its Women in Work Index, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the professional services company, has ranked the UK in 13th place in terms of overall gender equality. The Nordic countries still dominate the top positions, with Iceland, Sweden and Norway taking the top three spots.

And even though the UK has improved since 2000, PwC noted that it was still only ranked as the 30th best OECD country when it came to women in full-time employment and that it would take until 2041 to close the British gender pay gap entirely.

The company highlighted two factors that could be responsible for the gender pay gap being an average of 17% on these shores. Firstly, there are work-life issues, like women are more likely to take time off work to care for children and other family members than men, which can thwart their career prospects. Secondly, women are more likely to work in sectors like social care and education that pay less than the ones men work in.

The report also noted that the gender pay gap differed quite significantly between the different regions in Britain. For instance, there’s a 6% difference between men’s and women’s earnings in Northern Ireland, which was the smallest pay gap recorded in the country. In comparison, the pay gap is 22% in the West Midlands – the biggest in the UK – and 16.9% in London.

PwC also said that closing the gender pay gap in the UK would see the average woman earn £6,100 more across the country and Britain’s economy could stand to gain £85 billion. The researchers also stated that women in the capital have the most to win by closing the gender pay gap. If men and women were paid more equally, each woman in London would earn £8,000 more per year.

As for where the responsibility lies for levelling the field, PwC said that the government could help by introducing things like affordable childcare. But the firm also pointed out that businesses have an important role to play too. “There is much more that businesses and governments could do to address the causes of the gender pay gap, which are deep rooted,” said Yong Jing Teow, PwC economist and co-author of the report. “Policy levers that improve access to affordable childcare and shared parental leave have been shown to get more women in quality work. Businesses can also make flexible opportunities more widely available, enabling their employees to manage their family commitments around work.”

Given that everyone wins by empowering women, we can only hope that more UK business leaders take note of the report’s findings.

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson

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