The RPG: stretching the pay gap

Today is the deadline for public sector organisations to file their reports under the Gender Pay Gap reporting initiative.  Private sector companies have a week longer to do it, and a lot have left it to the last minute – or perhaps don’t intend to do it at all, though Rebecca Hilsenrath, the chief exec of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has been issuing some stern warnings.

GPG reporting will, I think, prove to be a big step forward.  It will provide a wealth of information for us to chew over, and since it’s pitched at organisational level it should allow real debate of what needs to be done in those particular contexts.  This is exactly how  I hope the Paula Principle can be used – as a toolkit to explore the issues in their very varied contexts, so that organisations can develop their own strategies for dealing with it.

But I want today to draw attention to something that will not be covered in the GPG: the gaps that exist in retirement income, or what could be called the RPG.  Everyone knows that men get bigger pensions, for a variety of reasons.  The RPG should in principle shrink as greater pay equality is achieved, slow though that is.  And yet the RPG is apparently growing, and quite considerably so.

Rupert Jones reported recently in the Guardian on research carried out by Royal London insurance.  In 2006-7 the gross income of the average retired single woman was £294 a week, compared with £325 for the average man.  Over the next decade women’s retirement incomes rose by 7% – but men’s by 23%.  So by 2016-17 the gap had trebled:  the average woman now receives £316 compared to the man’s £401.

The Paula Principle is about how women’s superior qualifications go under-rewarded.  This reflects the powerful trend of the last three decades, as women overtook men in educational achievement and went on learning more as adults.  For the older age groups, ie those currently in pension, this qualification crossover had not yet happened.  But as more highly qualified women move into retirement we need to watch what happens to the Retirement Pay Gap.  It’s yet another argument for looking at equality issues over the entire life course.

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