Men and women sharing low-paid work equally would close the gender pay gap by a fifth

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Indefensible gender pay gaps at the top of companies shouldn’t mean we ignore the fact that women do most of the low-paid work
If low-paid jobs were evenly distributed among men and women, the overall gender pay gap would fall by over a fifth (21 per cent), according to new analysis published today (Saturday) by the Resolution Foundation ahead of its flagship Low Pay Britain report.
With the deadline for companies to publish gender pay gap data less than a week away, most of the focus has been on the huge gaps at the top of firms, and within higher-paying organisations like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. But the Foundation says women being far more likely to do low-paid work also drives much of the economy-wide gender pay gap and deserves lots more attention.
While the gender pay gap is generally smaller in low-paying sectors and among low-paid workers, the fact that women are more likely to be found in such sectors is a key reason why women earn less than men on average. At present, over one in five (22 per cent) of all female workers are low paid – defined as earning less than two-thirds of the typical hourly wage or approximately £8.55 in April 2018 – compared to just 14 per cent of men.
If, instead of this sharp gender divide, those low-paid jobs were evenly distributed between men and women so that 18 per cent of both men and women were low paid, one-fifth (21 per cent) of the overall gender pay gap across British workers would be closed.
The data submitted by companies as part of the government’s gender pay gap reporting shows that gaps in low-paying sectors are often not as large as in higher-paying sectors. In accommodation and food services, for instance, the average mean gender pay gap among the 276 firms that have submitted data is just under 8 per cent, compared to over 26 per cent for firms in financial and insurance activities.
But within accommodation and food services, there is great variation: firms like AMT Coffee and Interserve Catering have mean gender pay gaps of over 20 per cent, while others like Wagamama actually have negative pay gaps, meaning women are paid more than men on average. The Foundation argues, however, that it’s important not to mistake a small or negative gender pay gap for fairer pay overall, with these sectors notorious for low wages and a lack of progression opportunities.
The Foundation says that this analysis makes clear more should be done to close these gaps. For employers, action should include providing clear routes for progression for women in low-paid roles, including designing more senior jobs that can be done with flexible working as standard. The government could also do more to ensure public spending on childcare helps lower paid workers, not just existing higher income users, and spread the entitlement to (and take-up of) paternity leave.
Conor D’Arcy, Senior Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said:
“It’s brilliant that the gender pay gap is receiving more scrutiny. The coverage so far has mainly focused on gaps that result from a lack of women in senior positions in a firm, or the pay of women at prominent organisations such as the BBC. These stories need telling, but so too do the stories of the ‘silent majority’ of low-paid women.
If the burden of low-paid work was spread evenly between men and women, rather than women taking on the vast bulk of it as they currently do, the overall gender pay gap would close by a fifth. This is a much-needed reality check for companies and government alike.
Notes to Editors
The gender pay gap is calculated as the difference between average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women as a proportion of average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men.
In order to estimate the impact that a more equal distribution of low-paid jobs would have on the overall gender pay gap, the analysis calculates the average wage of low-paid men and women, and the average wage of non-low-paid men and women. Keeping the wages of these groups the same but adjusting their proportions – assuming 18 per cent of both men and women are low-paid – allows new overall mean wages to be calculated. The mean gender pay gap is calculated at 20 per cent from this dataset and would fall to 16 per cent is low-paid jobs were redistributed.
Low Pay Britain will be published in early May. This work contains statistical data from ONS which is Crown Copyright. The use of the ONS statistical data in this work does not imply the endorsement of the ONS in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates.
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