Pay gap greatest when women hit 50
A new analysis of official statistics published by the TUC on 23 March 2018 shows that the gender pay gap is at its widest when a woman hits 50, when the average woman working full-time will earn £8,421 a year less than the average full-time working man.
The research – published in advance of the gender pay reporting deadline on Wednesday 4 April – shows that women working full-time earn less than men annually at every stage of their careers from as soon as they turn 18.
Young women: The analysis reveals that the average young woman aged 18-21 working full-time starts her career on the back foot financially, earning £1,845 less than her male peers. And this pay gap is only set to increase. Women aged 22-29 working full-time can expect to earn £2,305 less than full-time working men their age.
Women in their 40s: The gap in annual earnings more than doubles by the time women hit 40, leaping up from £3,670 a year at age 30 to £7,400 a year. The TUC believes this reflects the impact of motherhood on women’s earnings, when women find they are only able to return to work in lower-paid roles or cannot progress their careers after having moved to part-time employment.
Women in their 50s: The pay gap widens further for women in their 50s, hitting £8,421 a year, as the longer-term impacts of getting stuck in lower paid work with few promotion prospects are felt and caring responsibilities – including for older relatives – continue to have an effect.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
Women suffer a huge pay penalty over the course of their lives, starting as soon as they set foot on the career ladder.
Having children and caring responsibilities has a massive impact on a woman’s earnings. Far more needs to be done to help mums get back into decent, well-paid jobs after they have kids – and to encourage dads to take on their share of caring responsibilities.
And we are crying out for higher wages in jobs predominantly done by women, like childcare and social care. Until we do, women will continue to lose out financially and many will have to make the choice between have a family or a career.
Workplaces where unions are recognised are more likely to have family-friendly policies. So a good first step for women worried about their pay is to join a union.
The TUC is calling for employers to
- Toughen up gender pay gap reporting: by increasing resources for enforcement, introducing immediate fines for non-compliance and requiring employers to publish action plans alongside their figures. Smaller employers should also be required to report.
- End the motherhood pay penalty: by tackling pregnancy discrimination, giving dads better opportunities to share parental leave and working with employers to create more well-paid part-time jobs. (Previous TUC research found that women who become mothers before the age of 33 earn 15% less than similar women who haven’t had children.)
- Improve pay for “women’s work”: through investing in key sectors like social and nursery care where many important jobs are done by women.
- End discriminatory pay: through mandatory equal pay audits.
WiC Comment: The gap begins to gape right from the get-go. So, beware the gender pay gap and make sure you know what male counterparts are earning. And … if you’re graduating this year or know a young woman who is, make sure your (or her) first salary is on a par with male colleagues.