COMMONS

Gender Pay Gap: Government failing to take action

22 March 2016

The Government is complicit in a system that is undermining productivity and perpetuating the gender pay gap, finds a report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee. Evidence shows the gender pay gap will persist unless Government policy changes.

The Report

The report, by a cross-party Committee of MPs, highlights the lack of effective policy in many of the areas that contribute to the gender pay gap. It finds that the key causes of pay differentials are: the part-time pay penalty; women’s disproportionate responsibility for childcare and other forms of unpaid caring; and the concentration of women in highly feminised, low paid sectors like care, retail and cleaning.

Although the Government has committed to eliminating the 19.2% pay gap within a generation, it has remained at around the same level for the past four years. Women aged over 40 are most affected by the gender pay gap, with women aged 50-59 facing a 27% differential. Evidence suggests that the barriers to well-paid work currently experienced by women over 40 will continue unless action is taken to address the root causes of the gender pay gap.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Committee, Maria Miller, MP said:

"The gender pay gap is holding back women and that isn’t going to change unless the Government changes its policies now. The pay gap represents a massive loss to the UK’s economy and we must address it in the face of an ageing workforce, a skills crisis and the need for a more competitive economy.

If the Government is serious about long-term, sustainable growth it must invest in tackling the root causes of the gender pay gap. Adopting our recommendations would be a significant step towards achieving the goal of eliminating the gender pay gap within a generation."

Summary

The report concludes that:

  • Supporting men and women to share childcare and other forms of unpaid caring more equally is one of the most effective policy levers in reducing the gender pay gap.
  • Many women are trapped in low paid, part-time work below their skill level. This contributes to pay disparities and the under-utilisation of women’s skills costs the UK economy up to 2% GDP, around £36 billion.
  • Not enough is being done to support women returning to work if they have had time out of the labour market.
  • Too little attention has been focused on the situation of women working in low-paid, highly feminised sectors like care, retail and cleaning. Until their rates of pay and progression improve, the gender pay gap will not be eliminated.

There is scope for optimism though. The report finds that attitudes to work and caring are changing. Employers are increasingly recognising that workplaces need to change and that flexible working benefits men, women and the bottom line. This does not mean part-time work, which is underpaid.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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