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Gender differences in the rates of full-time and part-time paid work after childbirth are an important
driver of differences in hourly wages between men and women with part timers typically missing out on any progression in their wages, according to a new study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
The paper, The gender pay gap in the UK: children and experience in work, says part time work affects the amount and type of labour market experience that men and women build up, impacting on their wages. The IFS says this can explain up to two thirds of the gender pay gap of college graduates 20 years after childbirth. The impact is more modest for those with GCSE-level and A-levels qualifications, accounting for about one third of the gap 20 years after the first childbirth.
It states: “It is not only taking time out of paid work that matters, but crucially working part time after childbirth seems to hold back women’s wages. This is because extra experience in full-time work leads to higher hourly wages whereas extra experience in part-time work does not.”
The paper says there is a key challenge for policymakers to understand why part-time work shuts down wage progression so much. It speculates that this could be due to less training provision, missing out on informal interactions and networking opportunities and genuine constraints placed upon the build-up of skill by working fewer hours.
It adds that an alternative or complementary focus could be on understanding the causes of gender differences in rates of full-time work in the first place, such as the division of childcare responsibilities.
The IFS says the results show that tackling these issues would not solve the gender pay gap, particularly for lower paid women where a gap already exists before the first child is born. This is likely to be due to a combination of factors, such as women being less likely to work in more productive firms, less likely to successfully bargain for higher wages within a given firm and more likely to enter family-friendly occupations over high-paying ones.