Knowledge & Insight

The UK´s gender pay gap

Mon 12 December 2016

The existence of a significant pay gap between men and women in diverse sectors has been well publicised for many years, and indeed, has been a consideration in the formulation of workplace legislation since the Equal Pay Act of 1970. Yet despite the best efforts of policymakers, activists and private firms, the issue shows no signs of going away any time soon. And this is a reflection of the deep-rooted causes of the gender pay gap in our country.

Roots of the pay gap

Cultural - although the traditional gender roles of man as the breadwinner and woman as the homemaker have been eroded in recent years, these cultural factors still play a part in slowing down the transition towards equality in remuneration. And the effect of these cultural influences is reinforced by societal factors affecting the choices young people make at school.

Educational - According to recent research by Deloitte, the disparity in starting salaries between men and women who have studied science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the STEM subjects), and who go on to pursue a career in these fields, is smaller than in any other professional or educational sphere.

The facts

The Deloitte analysis draws on data from the Office for National Statistics and the Higher Education Statistics Agency, and it paints a very clear picture of the pay gap that exists in individual sectors of the UK economy. In Business and Public Services, the median full-time salary for women is £28,752, compared to £36,646 for men - a difference of 22%. In the health professions, the median pay for women is £32,472, while for men it is £40,943 - a difference of 21%. And while the pay gap in these sectors is more pronounced than in many others, this data illustrates the scale of the disparity that exists.

Changes in the employment marketplace

Just as our economy is in a state of rapid flux, so the employment marketplace that serves it is evolving too - and new technology is the primary driving force behind this change. Artificial intelligence, information technology and advances in robotics are all changing the way we work, and in some areas, making human effort almost redundant. Previous analysis by Deloitte has categorised different employment types as at high, medium or low-risk of negative impact by new technology, and while the overall differences between genders isn’t huge, there is a significant bias towards women being in the high-risk sectors.

Potential solutions

The Deloitte analysis concludes that technological change will serve to reinforce the disparity in pay that already exists, so efforts to promote pay equality must address the roots of the issue. And as school-age choices drive long-term employment prospects, girls must be encouraged to study STEM subjects, and to pursue careers where their skills and qualifications will put them on an even playing field with their male counterparts.

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