On this page you will find information about research into the gender pay gap. The studies are presented roughly in chronological order, with the current research appearing first.

GW4 – Exploring Gender Pay Gaps: Measuring and Reporting

The GW4 Pay Equality Research Consortium (PERC) recently hosted a workshop Exploring Gender Pay Gaps: Measuring and Reporting with a view to disseminating the findings of PERC’s own research, but also to shed light on the causes of gender pay gaps and offer information on the forthcoming gender pay gap regulations.

The consortium comprises the universities of Exeter, Bath, Bristol, and Cardiff, as well as the Wales Institute of Social and Economic, Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) and its aim is to scope the feasibility of creating a secure online platform that will assist employers with the diagnosis and reduction of pay gaps on the basis of gender, and also perhaps age and ethnic minority status.

As part of the GW4-funded feasibility study, the group interviewed 20 UK Employers and surveyed a further 150 employers. The team worked with university lawyers across GW4 to explore legal considerations of data capture and identified shared facilities for storing employee data, such as the Administrative Data Research Centre Wales (ADRC). The group also worked with Equal Pay Portal (a national advice platform) to promote their study and connect with leading HR professionals.

All of this work has enabled GW4 PERC to develop a specification for a platform that will facilitate multi-level research: capturing workforce-level wage data, diagnosing workforce-level patterns of structural pay inequality and providing each employer with bespoke recommendations for improvement. This platform could assist employers to meet the Government’s Gender Pay Gap Reporting regulations, which will come into effect this autumn.

The group will submit a bid to ESRC in 2017 to develop this prototype pay data collection platform, based on their engagement with employers and policymakers to date.

Institute for Employment Studies

The IES is a leading independent centre for research and evidence-based consultancy. It provides insights on employment and human resource management topics to help improve policy and practice. Recent publications relevant to equal pay and the gender pay gap include:

Gender pay gap reporting: important, undesirable or irrelevant? Brown DIES perspectives on HR 2016. Duncan Brown offers a detailed description of this year’s gender pay reporting requirement and how to maximise the benefits from it.

The Power of Parity Brown D, Institute for Employment Studies, Jul 2016. A study of how Lewisham Council achieved gender equality at senior levels, the learning and implications

 The Institute of Fiscal Studies 

  • The impact on the gender pay gap of having children

An August 2016  Briefing Note on the Gender Pay Gap from the IFS shows a correlation between the arrival of children and a widening of the gender pay gap. The study also finds a wage gap of over 10 per cent even before the arrival of the first child – an indicator that it is not children per se who cause the gap. The Study notes that while inequalities in women are of direct interest in their own right, poverty is increasingly a problem of low pay rather than lack of employment, and what the study seeks to do is to understand the relationship between the gender pay gap and poverty.

The study suggests that the gradual nature of the increase in the gender pay gap after the arrival of children may be related to the accumulation of labour market experience. It finds that by the time their first child is aged 20, women have on average been in paid work for four years less than men, comprising nine years less paid work at more than 20 hours a week and five years more paid work at less than half time. The study is based in part on the British Household Panel Survey which ran from 1991 to 2008 and it will be interesting to see if women who entered the labour market in the latter part of that period and who will enter it in future, spend as great a proportion of their working lives in part-time work, or whether the improvements in both childcare provision and rights to flexible working make a difference.

The study is the first in a series and subsequent work in this Joseph Rowntree funded research programme will estimate an economic model of the causal relationships between men’s and women’s wages and career patterns in order to clarify some of the key causes of the gender wage gap, and hence to provide clear guidance to policy makers who seek to reduce it.

  • The protective effect of higher education on women’s earnings

The significantly higher earnings that graduates in England can expect over those who did not study at university is analysed in detail in a study published in September 2015 by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The gains are especially pronounced for women , leading to positive headlines about a narrower gender pay gap, but a closer look at the report,  Comparing sample survey measures of English earnings of graduates with administrative data during the Great Recession [Britton J., Shephard N., and Vignoles A. Institute of Fiscal Studies, September 2015] shows that during the recent recession all but highest earning women have an actual real earning decline – with their earnings falling considerably in real terms. The report says that this is due to the recession combined with the lifecycle effects of unequal childcare responsibilities hitting hard during this period in their lives.

In a study that is the first of its kind, researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Harvard University and the University of Cambridge used anonymised tax data and student loans records for over 260,000 graduates for up to 10 years after graduation. This large database provides a far more accurate picture of earnings than was previously possible. The research was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

The findings clearly demonstrate, on the one hand, the protective effect of education on women’s earnings, but on the other, the extent to which in comparison to men, women’s earning capacity remains vulnerable.

Close the Deal, Fill the Gap

Close the Deal, Fill the Gap is an EU trans-national research project which aims to assess the interaction between, on the one hand, the involvement of the social partners (employers and unions) in reducing the gender pay gap, and on the other, the impact of the decentralisation of collective bargaining.

The project has three main objectives:

  • To chart the economic and legal frameworks in each of the partner countries (England, Italy, and Poland);
  • To assess the variables that make it possible for the social partners to play an active role in reducing the gender pay gap; and,
  • To foster an exchange of good practice, including the development of a set of guidelines for negotiating issues related to the gender pay gap.

The project concludes at the end of 2016.  So far, the project has produced:

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills

A November 2015 report entitled Opportunities and Outcomes in Education and Work: Gender Effects, published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills examines the impact of gender on a range of education and employment outcomes, including pay.

It shows that women working full time are paid less than men in 90 per cent of sectors. The study found that male workers are paid on average 19 per cent more than female counterparts in almost all areas of the workforce.

Women working in the financial and insurance sectors are the worst affected by the gap in pay, as well as other professional roles, with some earning almost 40 per cent less than men. The research also highlighted large pay gaps within the energy sectors as well as scientific and technical occupations where women are already chronically under-represented.

The report notes that while since 1999 median pay rates for part-time work differ little between men and women,  and, if anything, the female rate is slightly higher for much of the period, as it is in 2014, the fact that rates of pay for part-time work are low for both genders impacts more heavily on the female cohort in the workforce because a fifth of female employees work part-time compared with only around 6 per cent of male employees.

The report also notes that gross weekly and annual pay differences are also affected by the fact that women in full-time work on average work less hours than men. The difference in hours worked is 3.5 hours per week at the beginning of the period, falling to 2.7 hours by the end. At basic pay rates this adds about £36.7 per week to males’ salaries in 2014 (just under 7 per cent of male gross weekly earnings) and slightly more than that if it includes some overtime premia. If females worked the same weekly hours as males, at basic rates this would increase their pay by £33.24 (just over 7 per cent of gross earnings).

Payment of premia and bonuses is a further feature of earnings differentials between men and women. Payments for overtime and payments by results have typically benefited men over women. The male/female ratio for the impact on earnings from payments by results showed that men benefited over women to a value of between 2 and 2.5% of their average pay. This differential benefit has if anything been increasing since 2000.

The report is accompanied by an infographic on the gender pay gap.

 Cambridge Journal of Economics

Equal Pay as a Moving Target: International perspectives on forty-years of addressing the gender pay gap, Volume 39 Issue 2 March 2015, online ISSN 1464-3545 – Print ISSN 0309-166X   

To commemorate forty years since the implementation of British and European legislation on Equal Pay in 1975, the Cambridge Journal of Economics, together with the University of Brighton Business School (CROME),  published a special issue reviewing changes in the gender pay gap. The issue was guest edited by Professor Jacqueline O’Reilly, University of Brighton Business School (CROME), together with Professor Mark Smith, Grenoble Ecole de Management, and Professor Simon Deakin and Dr Brendan Burchell, both from the University of Cambridge.

The list of articles in the special issue relevant to the UK is reproduced below.

Equal Pay as a Moving Target: International perspectives on forty-years of addressing the gender pay gap. Jacqueline O’Reilly, Mark Smith, Simon Deakin, and Brendan Burchell

The 40-year pursuit of equal pay: a case of constantly moving goalposts. Jill Rubery and Damian Grimshaw

Regulation distance, labour segmentation and gender gaps. David Peetz

Understanding the variations of unions’ litigation strategies to promote equal pay: reflection on the British case. Cécile Guillaume

Are litigation and collective bargaining complements or substitutes for achieving gender equality? A study of the British Equal Pay Act. Simon Deakin, Sarah Fraser Butlin, Colm McLaughlin, and Aleksandra Polanska

Contradictions and misalignments in the EU approach towards the gender pay gap. Marco Peruzzi

From wage regulation to wage gap: how wage-setting institutions and structures shape the gender wage gap across three industries in 24 European countries and Germany. Andrea Schäfer and Karin Gottschall

Do high-performance work practices exacerbate or mitigate the gender pay gap? Rhys Davies, Robert McNabb, and Keith Whitfield

The gender wage gap among PhDs in the UK. Ute Schulze

Last updated 9th November 2016