Gender pay gap has barely changed if gains in women's educational attainments are excluded, IFS says

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The pay gap between men and women has barely changed in 25 years if the gains in women’s educational attainments are excluded, according to the IFS – PA

The gender pay gap between men and women has barely changed in 25 years if the gains in women’s educational attainments are excluded, according to a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

The research found that the average working age woman in the UK earns 40 per cent less than male counterparts.

This is largely because women are nearly 10 per cent less likely to be in paid work, do eight fewer hours of work a week than men and earn 19 per cent less per hour on average than men, at £13.20 rather than £16.30.

Although the 40 per cent earnings gap is about 13 percentage points, or 25 per cent, lower than in the mid 1990s, more than three quarters of it can be explained by the rapid increase in women’s educational attainments.

The IFS said this meant that there had barely been any change to the gender earnings gap in last 25 years once the increases in women’s education were taken into account.

Women more likely to have a degree than men

Women of working age have gone from being five percentage points less likely, to five percentage points more likely, to have a university degree than men.

This suggests that it is only because of the increase in women’s educational attainments that there has been any meaningful progress in closing the gender earnings gap, the IFS said.

It said the additional combined effect on the gender earnings gap of other changes in the economy, society and policy, including additional public support for childcare for example, has been comparatively small.

Monica Costa-Dias, deputy research director at the IFS and an author of the report, said: “Huge gender gaps remain across employment, working hours and wages.

'No progress' on gender gaps

“After accounting for the rapid improvement in women’s education, there has been almost no progress on gender gaps in paid work over the past quarter-century.

“Working-age women in the UK are now more educated than their male counterparts and it seems unlikely that we can rely on women becoming more and more educated to close the existing gaps.”

Comparing the amount earned per hour between women and men in paid work – the typical measure of the gender pay gap – reveals a gap of around 19 per cent, down from 24 per cent in 1995 and 20.5 per cent in 2005.

This gap has fallen by only a tiny amount since 2005, despite the increase in women’s educational attainments over that period, according to the IFS.

The IFS said gender gaps in overall earnings remained largest when comparing low-educated men and women. This is because low-educated women are by far the most likely to be doing few hours of paid work – and often none at all.

Impact of parenthood

Gender gaps in paid work are mirrored by those in unpaid work. Working-age women do more than 50 hours a month more unpaid work (including both childcare and housework) than their male counterparts. Increases in women’s hours of paid work have not been met by reductions in their unpaid work.

Gender gaps in employment and hours increase substantially immediately upon parenthood. Gaps in hourly wages open up more slowly after childbirth as the impact of women switching to more family friendly but lower-paying occupations combines with the “part-time penalty” to slow their wage progression.

Mark Franks, Director of Welfare at the Nuffield Foundation, said: “Differences in labour market participation, hours worked and hourly pay act together to lead to large and persistent inequalities in labour market outcomes between men and women in the UK.”

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