PwC’s annual Women in Work index shows the UK remains in 16th place for female employment across the 33 OECD countries.
The top three countries in the OECD for female employment are Iceland, Sweden and Slovenia, with the UK remaining in 16th place, according to PwC’s annual Women in Work 2020 Index.
PwC says the UK is being outpaced by greater improvements in female employment prospects in other OECD countries. The Index analyses female economic empowerment across 33 OECD countries.
While the UK performs above the OECD average and is second only to Canada when compared to other G7 economies, its position has barely moved since 2000 when it stood in 17th position, despite its performance improving.
Jing Teow, economist at PwC, said: “Although progress has been made across both the UK and OECD, the rate of improvement is still slow, despite the prospect of huge economic gains from increasing female participation in the workforce. Indeed both the OECD and UK would receive massive boosts to GDP amounting to US$6 trillion (£4.63 trillion) and £189 billion respectively if they could match the best performing country, Sweden.
“In order for these gains to be realised, businesses and governments need to work together to help get more women into work and ensure that there is a fair and equal pay structure. It’s also crucial that women get the right opportunities to upskill in the face of increasing automation as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Overall, the OECD countries achieved incremental gains to female economic empowerment. Iceland and Sweden retain the top two positions for the fifth year in a row, with Slovenia in third place. Czechia experienced the biggest improvement in its ranking of all OECD countries, rising four places from 23rd to 19th, whereas Estonia and Ireland recorded the biggest decline.
The index shows, however, that regional inequalities in women’s employment across the UK are declining, with every region except Scotland improving since last year. The East Midlands, North East and West Midlands achieved increases in their index score of more than 12% since last year, mainly driven by broad-based improvements to female labour force participation and the full-time employment rate. The South West unseated Scotland as the UK’s top region, improving on all indicators, while Northern Ireland jumped from 4th to 2nd place.
London performed the poorest on the index due to poor female labour force participation and a high female unemployment rate. It fell three places to 12th, despite being the region that has achieved the most significant improvement in its index score since 2010, indicating, says PwC, that progress has stalled in the capital.
Women in Work also includes a Women in Technology Index. It says that, on average across the G7, women account for only 30% of the tech workforce and even fewer women occupy the top echelons of tech companies. Canada is the best performing country within the G7 in terms of gender representation and equality in the tech sector, with France in second place.
While the UK is the second best performing country in the G7 and ranks in the top half of the OECD overall on the main index, the UK is fifth out of the G7 in the Women in Technology Index. This is due to a worse than average performance on all indicators except the share of women on boards in the technology, media and telecoms (TMT) sector.
Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC UK, said: “Technology is front and centre for businesses and wider society, so it’s vital we take steps to make the industry as inclusive as possible. It’s encouraging to see progress being made in opportunities for women across the UK as businesses invest across the country, but more needs to be done.
“Long-term, targeted solutions will be vital in making changes sustainable. We know that in areas such as STEM women are under-represented. In order to build and sustain a pipeline of diverse talent, businesses need to work together to encourage girls at young ages through initiatives such as Tech She Can – a programme which inspires and educates young women to get into tech careers.”
The study indicates that AI and new technologies, such as robotics, drones and driverless vehicles, could displace jobs for women, but can also create new ones. Fewer female jobs are expected to be lost due to technology relative to jobs lost for the male population in the OECD, but the gains from job creation are likely to be bigger for men than women, says PwC. The health and social care sector, the largest employer of women in the OECD, is expected to experience a net increase in female employment as a result of technology. However, the wholesale and retail trade and manufacturing sectors in the OECD are expected to experience a net decrease in female employment as a result of technology.