False hope for equal pay in latest ONS report

Despite some surprise figures, women are still earning significantly less overall than men.

Despite some surprise figures, women are still earning significantly less overall than men

The Office for National Statistics released their annual report into British salaries this week. The figures showing how the gender pay gap has changed garnered the most attention, with some surprising data appearing to suggest that things are improving. However, reflected in the apparent good news are some less positive trends:

The good news: Overall, the gender pay gap is narrowing, and has fallen from 10 per cent in 2013 to 9.4 percent in 2014. The report states that this is the lowest since records began in 1997, when women were earning 17.4 per cent less than men.

The bad news: Unfortunately, the closing of the gap seems to be more connected to falling male salaries than rising female ones. This year pay, after being adjusted for inflation, has decreased by 1.6 per cent, the biggest drop in three years.

According to a 2012 report by the CIPD, men were hit harder by the recession overall than women and experienced higher rates of unemployment, although this is attributed partly to a rise in the number of women entering the labour market.

Male managers, directors and executives were particularly badly affected by the crisis, which is reflected in the report by findings that the gap has decreased between men and women in senior positions.

The good news: Northern Ireland is bucking national trends, with women in full-time posts earning an average of £11.48 per hour and men earning £11.12.

The bad news: Women are only earning more when part-time workers are excluded from the survey. Overall there is still a pay gap of 10 per cent in Northern Ireland. The surprising figures have also been attributed to the fact that Northern Ireland has more public sector jobs than the rest of the UK.

The ONS report shows that since 2009, ‘private sector earnings have remained consistently at around 85 per cent of public sector earnings.’ This is partly because the private sector covers some of the lowest paid workers, including bar staff, cleaners and labourers.

This year, meridian gross weekly earnings for full-time employees in the public sector increased by one per cent, compared with 0.7 per cent for private sector employees.

The good news: Young women earn more than young men, with the report showing that women aged 22- 29 earn on average 1.1 per cent more than men in the same age group. This is up from 0.3 per cent last year.

The bad news: The very fact of this early ‘negative pay gap’ shows that there is still a long way to go before more equal parenting closes the pay gap for people of all ages. In 2013 the ONS showed that the average age for a woman to have her first child had hit 30; thus there is a clear correlation between the moment when women start families and the moment when their wages start to decrease.

The lack of well-paid leave for fathers means that it is still mainly women who spend a large period of time out of the labour market after having children, halting career development and ensuring that the gap remains once they return to work.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

5 Responses to “False hope for equal pay in latest ONS report”

  1. Julia

    I’m getting confused.

    Does the above article represent Labour



  2. Leon Wolfeson

    This is a LFF article, not a Labour one.

    And what’s the issue with a townhouse, again?

  3. Julia

    I find your posts to be of good quality and I agree with most of what you say.
    However many people consider this site to be very pro Labour
    E.g. Even Labour
    On 29 January 2010, Labour cabinet minister Ed Balls MP said in interview that “LabourList is flourishing and agenda setting, and that’s very powerful. It’s brought a huge change over the last year. Two years ago, we weren’t on the field when it came to new media. Now, I think we’re ahead of the Tories in new communications. Our people are younger, they’re in the real world, they’re young parents or they’re students, so we ought to be ahead of them in new communications. LabourList and Left Foot Forward are really, really good. A year on from Labour people really grasping this stuff, the reality is now reflected in what’s going on.

  4. Leon Wolfeson

    There are some Labour posters, here, yes, but there are also left-wing posters. The Labour posts tend to be pretty clearly marked, and get essentially boo’d by the left-wing commentators.

    (Yes, these days I see that as exclusive these days, sadly).

  5. littleoddsandpieces

    Ask the Fawcett Society about all the losses by women of all ages in recent years with lower pay than men, tax changes, cuts in maternity pay, benefit and pension reform. As well as the government no longer reimbursing firms for long term sick (anything over 4 weeks, when women’s health issues often need surgery needing 3 months off work).

    Labour is not offering to repeal Pension Bills 2010 – 2014
    that is leaving the poorest women with no food money forever in old age
    (women born from 1953)
    and including the poorest men (born from 1951.

    There are huge numbers of women born from 1953 and men born from 1951 who will be on benefit for life (yet constantly being lost more and more)
    forever in old age from NIL STATE PENSION FOR LIFE.


    Half of over 50s women are within the working poor.

    The majority reason over 50s not in work is due to disability / chronic illness and those benefits taxed, becoming taxed and ever being lost, with no other income

    Child tax credits is now only til 12, when it was 16.

    Early retirement by women over 50s is mostly driven by the massive austerity job cuts, with women’s public sector works pensions on average in lowest 4 per cent income.

    Benefit sanctions hit all ages, suffering a near 70 per cent rise to nearly a million, shown up by a near million referrals to food banks, themselves only 3 vouchers in a year, when sanctions are months long, and it takes a month to starve to death.

    The Greens are a proper left wing party now and offer a solution to poverty in a time when rising employment is only a rise in the number of the working poor not a living wage.

    In 2015 Greens manifesto pledge, the Greens are keeping under wraps for some reason:

    – universal and automatic Citizen Income, non-withdrawable

    to level of basic tax allowance.

    – Bettered State Pension, giving a full state pension to all citizens,

    leaving none with no food money for life for the first time since the state pension was conceived.


Leave a Reply