ONS and part-time pay

The Guardian today carries a full-page item on ‘Gender pay gap could close…by 2040’.   My first point is to give the paper a big pat on the back for its visual presentation of the statistics.  They really do work hard with the design to make the different magnitudes easily accessible, even to those of us who lack intuitive gasp of numbers.  I note also that they judiciously choose green and orange for men  and women, carefully eschewing steretypical gender colours.  I’ve had some intrafamilial disagreements on whether I should do the  same for my Paula Principle charts.

The Guardian piece gives good prominence to the place of part-time pay.  But it’s definitely worth noting that if you go to the ONS site where annual survey on hours and earnings is published, the six ‘key points’ all relate to full-time employment, with nary a mention of part-timers.  Not insignificant, I think.

Anyway, the figures on workforce composition show that nearly 27% of the total workforce are now part-timers:  20.3% women and 6.3% men.   40% of women work part-time, about 12% of men.   What is news to me is that women’s part-time pay rates are higher than men’s, by about 5%.  Fulltime men earn over 70% more than part-time men, whereas the gap between full- and part-time women is under 50%.  I assume that this is because women have on average worked part-time longer  than men; the men who work part-time have usually entered this kind of employment more recently and have therefore gained less in the way of increments.  It  may also be because part-time men are particularly concentrated in low-paying occupations such as security.  Does anyone have other reasons to suggest?

This produces a visual quirk in the statistics (apols, I can’t manage to reproduce the charts here).   The lines tracking changes in pay gaps over the last 12 years show the full-time gap now at 10% in favour of men (down from 16% in 2000) and the part-time gap at 5% in favour of women (up from 4%).   But the gap for all employees is way above both of these, at just under 20% in favourof men (down from 27% in 2000).    Of course the reason is that far more men than women work full-time, and a much higher proportion of men than women work part-time.

It seems that ‘full-time’ and ‘part-time’ mean roughly the same for men and women.  On average, FT men do just under 3 hours more than FT women (40.1 to 37.4) ; and – to me surprisingly – PT women do about half an hour more than men (18.3 to 17.7).  I would have thought that men would work much more overtime, but the  average is only 1.5 hours to women’s 0.5.

I’m increasingly uneasy over the weakness of the FT/PT distinction.  These average figures conceal wide variations, and I’m not sure that if there has to be a dividing  line we are drawing it in the right place.  But I’m very far from having thought this through to a constructive solution.


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