In 2019 the gender pay gap was 17.3% in the UK, which means that on average, women were paid approximately 83p for every £1 men were paid.

Data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings shows that the size of the pay gap between men and women depends on a number of factors. Here we explore how the gender pay gap varies by hours worked, age, region, pay, and sector.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap can be defined as the difference between the median hourly earnings of men and of women. This is distinct from equal pay, which refers to men and women in the same job earning an equal wage.

The gender pay gap among part-time workers is negative

Women working full-time earned an average of 8.9% less than men.

Women working part-time earned an average of 3.1% more than men.

The gender pay gap for all employees is larger than the full-time and part-time pay gaps because  part-time workers tend to earn less per hour than full-time workers. Women are more likely to work part-time.

A bar graph showing women are more likely then men to work part-time. In the second quarter of 2019 there were 12.3 million men working full time and 8.3 million women. There were 1.6 million men working part-time and 5.4 million women.

The pay gap is larger for people over 40

For full-time employees, the gender pay gap only becomes significant when women reach their forties.

A bar graph showing that the gender pay gap is largest for those aged over 40.  In April 2019, the pay gap was highest at 16% for those aged between 50 and 59.

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) finds that one reason for this is that women begin to take time out to care for children or elderly relatives in their 30s and 40s. This affects their earnings when they return.

Another possible explanation is generational differences – over the past 25 years there has been a more rapid increase in education levels among women than among men. More highly-educated workers tend to have higher earnings.

Despite this, there has been little or no change in the gender pay gap within the groups of workers qualified to degree standardsince the early 1990s, according to the IFS.

The gender pay gap is highest in London and the South East and negative in Northern Ireland

Gender pay gaps vary by region. In 2019, women working full-time in London were paid 86p for every £1 full-time men were paid, while women working full-time in Wales were paid 94p. In Northern Ireland, the pay gap was negative, which is likely to be due to the high proportion of public sector workers in the country. Full-time employees in the public sector have a smaller gender pay gap than in the private sector.

A chart showing that the gender pay gap varies between regions and countries. In April 2019 the pay gap was biggest in London and the South East.

The highest earners have a larger pay gap than the lowest earners

For full-time employees, the highest paid 10% of women received an average of 17.7% less than the highest paid 10% of men. The lowest paid 10% of women earned an average of 3.9% less than the lowest paid 10% of men.

The gender pay gap for the average (median) earner and the lowest earners has decreased since 1997. For higher earners, the gap has been slower to close.

A line graph showing that the gender gap is bigger for the top 10% of earners than the bottom 10%. It shows data from 1997 to 2019.

Median pay for part-time employees is higher for women than for men. However, the highest-paid male part-time employees tend to earn more than the highest-paid female part-time employees.

a line graph showing that the gender pay gap for part-time employees has decreased for both the top and bottom 10%. It shows data from 1997 to 2019.

Public and private sector workers have different experiences

For full-time workers, the pay gap is larger in the private sector than the public sector, but interestingly, there is no gender pay gap for part-time workers in the private sector, which contrasts with a large part-time pay gap in the public sector.

This is likely to do with the composition of the workforce: there are relatively very few men working part-time in the public sector (13% of public sector part-time employees) so this group might have quite different characteristics to the rest of the public sector workforce.

A bar chart showing the gender pay gap for employees in the public and private sector in April 2019. The gap was biggest for those working part-time in the public sector, at 26% and lowest in the public full-time sector, at 11%.

Further Reading

The gender pay gap, House of Commons Library.

About the author: Brigid Francis-Devine is a researcher at the House of Commons specialising in economic policy and statistics.