A report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee has revealed that the gender pay gap will continue unless government policy changes.
The gender pay gap currently stands at 19.2 per cent and has remained at a similar level for four years. The government has committed to eliminating the gender pay gap within a generation, but the report found that the government was complicit in a system which is undermining productivity and perpetuating the gender pay gap.
The report revealed that the key causes of the gender pay gap 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 such as care, retail and cleaning.
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.”
Women aged 50 to 59 face a 27 per cent differential in pay compared to men, and as a result women over 40 are the most affected by the gender pay gap.
The report concludes that the gender pay gap can be eliminated with certain changes, including supporting men and women to share childcare and other forms or unpaid caring more equally, and by making improvements to rates of pay and progression within highly feminised sectors.
The report found that many women are trapped in low-paid, part-time work below their skill level. The under-utilisation of women’s skills is thought to cost the economy around £6 billion, up to two per cent GDP. Women also face a lack of support when returning to work if they have had time out.
The report did recognise, however, that attitudes to work and caring are changing, and employers are realising that flexible working benefits men, women and productivity.
GMB, the general workers’ union, revealed that the current gender pay gap equates to £2.49 per hour less in many women members’ pay packets, putting the average annual earnings of women at £24,202 compared to men at £29,934.
GMB represents many workers in low paid sectors and has called on the government to do more to ensure employers are being upfront about pay.
Kamaljeet Jandu, GMB National Officer, said: “Women members of the GMB, working in lower paid, insecure sectors, are looking for real change to their pay. We have had equal pay legislation since the 70s, but women are still paid less than men.
“Great strides have been made to reduce the gender pay gap but to fully eliminate it the time has come for the government to compel employers to have mandatory equal pay audits and address the findings.”