Salutary reminders on pay gaps and progress

There has been a steady trickle of important PP-relevant analyses in recent weeks.  Here are just two of them.

First, the TUC shows how the gender pay gap is biggest for women in their 50s, at about £8500 per year, or £85000 over the decade.  This is a powerful reminder that we need to look at these effects over the whole of the working life.  Of course much of the gap derives from the point at which women have children.  For mothers in their 50s the gap is 42%, and so the crucial remedies are better childcare provision and parental leave, with encouragement for men to share child-rearing responsibilities. But for women without children it is still sizeable, at 12%.  These are likely to be women who have worked continuously, probably full-time – and they are increasingly well-qualified, with another 10-15 years in the labour market.

So not all the attention should be focussed on the child-rearing years, even though this is where the divide often begins.  The agenda has to become both broader and more tailored to different circumstances at different stages in people’s working lives.

The TUC points to long working hours as an issue to address.  I’ve banged on about this before, as has the New Economics Foundation.  Here is NEF’s Anna Coote having another go at the issue.

The World Economic Forum’s latest Gender Equality Report brings a different kind of salutary reminder:

” Countries across the world are stalling on economic gender parity, despite many reaching or nearing equality in education. With only 59% of the economic gender gap closed, there is a long way to go before the world makes better use of all its talent. “

So the idea that we are making steady progress should be given short shrift.  And where is this most noticeable?

“It may not be surprising that improvements in the fortunes of women are unequal around the globe. But measuring the economic gender gap between the years 2006 (when we first started measuring gender inequality) and today does throw up some insights. The sharpest decline is in North America and Western Europe, while the otherwise poorly ranked Middle East and North Africa region is one of the most improved in the world.”

Apparently North America is moving backwards – a trend likely to be accelerated if the unthinkable happens and Trump gets in.  Western Europe, by triumphant contrast, is likely to be the first to close the gap completely – in a mere 47 years….



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