Britain's gender pay gap narrows - but educated mums miss out

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 5 February 2018 17:50 GMT

A woman stops to look in the window of a shop in London March 25, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Image Caption and Rights Information
Workers tend to see their pay rise as they gain experience, yet part-time workers miss out on these gains

By Emma Batha

LONDON, Feb 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women in Britain who switch to part-time work after they give birth suffer a long-term penalty in striving for equal pay, with educated mums the biggest losers, economists said on Monday.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) - a leading think tank - said Britain's gender wage gap stood at about 20 percent - after falling from nearly 30 percent in the early 1990s.

However the gap has not narrowed at all for the most educated women - partly because mothers spend more time than fathers doing part-time work - according to a study by the IFS.

Workers tend to see their pay rise as they gain experience, yet part-time workers miss out on these gains, researchers said.

"It is remarkable that periods spent in part-time work lead to virtually no wage progression at all," said IFS associate director Monica Costa Dias, who co-authored the report

"It should be a priority for governments and others to understand the reasons for this," she said in a statement.

By the time a family's first child has grown up in Britain, mothers earn on average about 30 percent less per hour than fathers educated to a similar level, according to the study.

The gap is partly explained by the fact many mothers are likely to have been in part-time rather than full-time work while their child is growing up, or stopped working entirely.

The IFS said the lack of earnings growth in part-time work hit graduate women hardest, because they would have seen the biggest salary increases if they had kept working full-time.

A graduate who had worked for seven years before having a child would, on average, see her hourly wage rise by 6 percent if she stayed in full-time work for another year, but would see no increase if she moved to part-time work, the study found.

Britain introduced a law in 2017 requiring companies with at least 250 workers - which covers almost half of its workforce - to report pay discrepancies between male and female employees.

(Editing by Kieran Guilbert; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.