Women still struggling to close gender pay gap, says ONS

Weekly earnings are on the rise yet the gender pay gap hits a new low, according to the latest report by the Office for National Statistics.

Gender pay gap widening still
Britons have seen their real weekly earnings increase by almost two per cent over the past year, the heftiest rise since the financial crisis, according to figures published on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).Low inflation and the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) boosted take-home pay over a year when the gender pay gap edged down to 9.4 per cent, the lowest figure since the current method of calculation was introduced by the ONS in 1997. However, other data suggested that, for women in executive and high-level posts, the gap remained at almost 20 per cent. 

Relatively little decrease

In 1997, the gender pay gap across all sectors was 17.4 per cent. The ONS said that, despite the new low, the gap had decreased relatively little in recent years.Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said, "The full-time gender pay gap is closing at a snail's pace. At this rate, it will take decades for women to get paid the same as men."We need a labour market that works better for women. This means helping mums get back into well-paid jobs after they have kids, and encouraging dads to take on more caring responsibilities."The government should also scrap tribunal fees, which stop women getting justice from bad employers who have discriminated against them." 

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"Still more to be done"

Business Minister Margot James said she was pleased the gender pay gap was closing but admitted there was “still more to be done to make sure women are treated equally”.She added, “The government is determined to build an economy that works for all and it’s encouraging that earnings have grown over the last year, with the national living wage driving up the wages of the lowest paid.”The ONS said the introduction of the NLW of £7.20 an hour had led to pay growth in the past year being concentrated at the bottom end of the earnings scale. Weekly earnings for full-time workers were 2.2 per cent higher in April than a year earlier, representing a real rise of 1.9 per cent after taking account of inflation. The TUC pointed out the figures revealed that 362,000 people were paid below the minimum wage in 2016 – a 73 per cent increase from the previous year.Ms O'Grady said, "These figures are very worrying. The government must use next month's Autumn Statement to beef up minimum wage enforcement.There should be no hiding place for bosses who try to cheat their workers out of a fair day's pay. Failing to pay the minimum wage squeezes those who have the least."

"Low but robust wage growth"

Neil Carberry, skills director at the Confederation of British Industry, commented, "This data confirms a picture of low but robust wage growth across the UK economy before the EU referendum."It's clear that the introduction of the national living wage has supported lower earners' incomes, building on several years of higher than average increases in the old national minimum wage. "Businesses have been exploring how best to manage the impact of national living wage and these figures show some evidence that they have increased wages for those paid slightly above the rate, in order to maintain the difference. "The figures show a higher level of non-compliance than we have seen previously, but this is likely to be due to this survey being completed in the month that the new national living wage was introduced."Businesses will welcome further progress in closing the gender pay gap. The gap is caused by a wide range of factors, and there is a way to go to address it, but it's crucial it is not confused with unequal pay, which is already illegal."

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