The gender pay gap meansures the difference between average (median) hourly earnings of men and women, usually shown by the percentage men earn more than women.

Note that figures for 2020 especially, but also 2021, should be treated with some caution. Some people were on furlough with reduced pay and figures for 2020 were particularly affected by disruptions to the collection of data from businesses.

How big is the gender pay gap?

According for the Office for National Statistics (ONS), median hourly pay for full-time employees was 7.9% less for women than for men in April 2021, while median hourly pay for part-time employees was 2.7% higher for women than for men (figures exclude overtime pay). The median is the point at which half of employees earn more and half earn less. It is regarded a better measure of pay of the ‘typical’ employee than taking an average.

Because a larger proportion of women are employed part-time, and part-time workers tend to earn less per hour, the gender pay gap for all employees is considerably larger than the full-time and part-time gaps. Median pay for all employees was 15.4% less for women than for men in April 2021.

The full-time pay gap has been getting smaller since 1997 and the overall pay gap has also decreased over the period.  The part-time pay gap has generally remained small and negative, with women earning more than men on average.

Gender pay gap UK, 1997-2021

Why is there a gender pay gap?

The size of the gender pay gap depends on a number of factors:

  • Age: There is little difference in median hourly pay for male and female full-time employees aged in their 20s and 30s, but a large gap emerges among full-time employees aged 40 and over.  This links to parenthood – the gap between pay for men and women grows gradually but steadily in the years after parents have their first child.
  • Occupation: The gap tends to be smaller for occupation groups where a larger proportion of employees are women.
  • Industry: The pay gap is largest in the financial & insurance industry, and smallest in the transportation and storage industry.
  • Public and private sector: For full-time workers, the pay gap is similar in the private sector to in the public sector. There is a negligible gender pay gap for part-time workers in the private sector, which contrasts with a large part-time pay gap in the public sector.
  • Region and nation: The full-time gender pay gap is highest in London and the South East and negative in Northern Ireland.
  • Pay: The highest earners have a larger pay gap than the lowest earners.

Gender pay gap reporting

Since 2017/18, public and private sector employers with 250 or more employees have been required to publish data on the gender pay gap within their organisations each year.

In 2020, 78% of reporting employers said median hourly pay was higher for men than for women in their organisation, while 14% of employers said median hourly pay was higher for women. 8% said median hourly pay was the same for women as for men.


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