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'Wake-up call' for UK as graduates' gender pay gap widens

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 29 March 2019 13:29 GMT

The gender pay gap has been a persistent problem in Britain, even though sex discrimination was outlawed in the 1970s

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, March 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The gender pay gap for British university graduates is widening as men's wage growth outpaces women's in the early years of their careers, government data released on Friday showed.

Five years after graduating, men earned 15 percent more than women in 2017, according to data that showed the gap had widened steadily from 12 percent three years earlier.

"Today's statistics should be a wake-up call for anyone who cares about gender equality," Joe Levenson, a spokesman for the charity Young Women's Trust.

"While the impact of having children is often said to be a cause of lower pay for women as they get older, the new graduate pay gap happens before most people start a family."

The gender pay gap has been a persistent problem in Britain, even though sex discrimination was outlawed in the 1970s.

But the overall pay gap is gradually narrowing. On average, men earned 17.9 percent more than women last year, a smaller gap than in 2017 when it was 18.4 percent, according to government data. In 2008, it was 22.5 percent.

The latest data showed men earned an average of 28,300 pounds ($36,872) five years after graduation in the financial year 2016-17, while the average wage of women was 24,700 pounds, the latest data showed.

The growing gap was due to average pay for male graduates rising faster than for women, said the report, which looked at those who lived in Britain and had attended higher education in England.

Men out-earned women at one, three, five and 10 years after graduation, it showed. By the 10-year point, men earned 8,400 pounds more than their female counterparts on average, it said.

A separate report showed that male family doctors in Britain earned a third more than their female counterparts, and that the gender pay gap across the National Health Service (NHS) stood at 23 percent.

The disparity was largely caused by a lack of women in senior positions, said the initial findings from an independent review commissioned by the Department of Health.

"The founding principle of the NHS is to treat everyone equally, yet women employed in the health service are still experiencing inequality," said health minister Stephen Hammond in a statement on the report.

He said the government was working to understand the underlying causes of the pay disparity and was awaiting recommendations from the review.

The latest data comes days before the April 5 deadline for businesses and charities with more than 250 workers to publish figures reporting their average gender pay gap.

A study last month found almost 80 percent of high earners in Britain were male and the gender pay gap among the nation's richest would not close for another 36 years at current rates of progress.

($1 = 0.7675 pounds) (Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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