The wage gap between men and women could widen due to austerity, according to the Fawcett Society which is marking Equal Pay Day 2013 – the point in the year when women in effect ‘stop earning’ because of the 15 per cent gender pay gap.
Fawcett is warning that ongoing trends in the labour market which have seen women make up the majority of those losing their jobs, but the minority of those picking up new jobs, means any economic recovery risks leaving women behind and is called for a dedicated women’s employment strategy.
Charlie Woodworth of the Fawcett Society said: “Across the UK today, women in full-time work earn an average 15 per cent less an hour than men. Translated into working days this means women are, in effect, working for free from 7th November until the New Year. More than 40 years after the Equal Pay Act outlawed paying women less than men for the same work women still face a lifetime of earning less. For every pound men take home, women are getting just 85p.
“As prices continue to rise at a faster rate than pay, women’s budgets are being squeezed on all sides. Stagnating wages, benefit cuts – which hit women twice as hard as men, and the ongoing injustice of being paid less than men means more and more women and their families are finding it harder to make ends meet.”
The Fawcett Society believes the earnings gap between men and women could widen due to austerity, in part because of job losses in the public sector where more women work. Also Fawcett’s research has found the majority of the new jobs being created are going to men, in large part because the government is principally investing in industries where men dominate, it says. Almost three-times as many women as men have become ‘long term’ unemployed in recent years.
Woodworth added: “Unless the government takes urgent action, women will lose their precarious footing in the workforce. We face a labour market characterised by persistent and rising levels of women’s unemployment, shrinking pay levels for women and a widening of the gender pay gap. This would be bad for women, for families and ultimately for Britain as a whole.
“We urgently need a dedicated women’s employment strategy. This must address the dominance of women in low paid work – two thirds of those earning minimum wage or below are women, the ways in which the current labour market prevents women’s fully participating – the lack of flexible working practices for example – and the very real risk of the gender pay gap widening.
“Women should be key to any sustainable economic recovery, but the age of austerity is seeing women in work further marginalised, pushed down and out of the workforce.”
A report from the OECD released earlier this week puts the UK at 21st out of 34 industrialised nations for work life balance and shows British women are still less likely than men to have a paid job and be elected and more likely to be spending a lot of their time on housework.