Last updated 4th April 2014
In this section EqualPayPortal looks at official sources of information on the gender pay gap within the UK and across Europe. We also look at what information there is on the number and outcome of equal pay cases filed with the Employment Tribunal.
European data on the gender pay gap
Inequality in pay between men and women remains high on the European agenda. The unadjusted gender pay gap (GPG) is an important indicator used within the European Employment Strategy to monitor imbalances in wages between men and women. Eurostat, the European Commission equivalent of the UK’s Office for National Statistics, publishes a summary of Gender Pay Gap Statistics which includes a long list of links to other sites with relevance to the gender pay gap.
United Kingdom data on the gender pay gap
Some words of warning: always check whether the data refers to the United Kingdom, or to Britain. Some official data sources also provide information specifically on Scotland and Wales, but this is often inadequate. Also check the time frame within which the data is collected, as this may vary from one source to another, meaning that any comparisons have to be treated with caution.
At the whole economy level the gender pay gap is calculated from data drawn from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (the Annual Survey), which is carried out by the Office for National Statistics. The Annual Survey is based on a 1 per cent sample of employee jobs, drawn from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Pay As You Earn records. The Annual Survey collects information on the levels, distribution and make-up of earnings and hours paid. Results are produced by gender and by various industrial, occupational and geographic breakdowns, as well as by public and private sectors and age groups. In the absence of an annual report on the gender pay gap (as, for example, that produced by Belgium) the Annual Survey is the key official source of information on the gender pay gap in the UK.
Various methods can be used to measure the earnings of women relative to men. The Office for National Statistics headline estimates of the gender pay gap are for hourly earnings excluding overtime. Including overtime can distort the picture as men work relatively more overtime than women. The Office for National Statistics uses median, rather than mean, earnings because the median is not affected by extreme values, such as changes in the earnings of small numbers of very high earners. However, as those on very high earnings are predominantly male, and those on very low earnings predominantly female, the mean is an important measure of women’s experience of labour market disadvantage as compared to men, and one which allows international comparisons to be made.
To get a full picture of women’s earnings relative to men’s it is important to read the annual statistical bulletin in its entirety, and not just the section on the gender pay gap.
Equal pay for equal work
Although median and mean hourly pay excluding overtime provide useful comparisons of men’s and women’s earnings, they do not reveal differences in rates of pay for comparable jobs, and it is rates of pay for comparable jobs which are the focus of the equal pay legislation.
While the Office for National Statistics rightly states that this is because such measures do not allow for the different employment characteristics of men and women, such as the proportion of men and women in different occupations and their length of time in jobs, the most important reason why the comparisons do not reveal differences in rates of pay for comparable jobs is that in the absence of a national framework for job evaluation (as exists, for example, in some Eastern European countries), a national survey cannot take account of job demands.
For these reasons the headline figures for the gender pay gap should not be treated as an indicator of whether women are receiving equal pay for equal work.
Up to date information on the gender pay gap
On November 19th 2014 the ONS released provisional results for the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. These show that in the year to April 2014, average earnings for full-time employees increased by 0.1%. The gender pay gap decreased from 10.0% to 9.4%. There were 236,000 jobs paid less than the minimum wage. The report goes into the gender pay gap in some detail
- The gap for all employees (full-time and part-time) was the lowest on record at 19.1%, down from 19.8% in 2013. The gap has also decreased in the long-term, from 27.5% in 1997.
- For part-time employees, the higher rate of pay for women than men results in a ‘negative’ gender pay gap. Although the trend is more volatile than for full-time employees, there is evidence that the gap has widened in the long-term. It has, however, remained relatively stable in recent years, standing at 5.5% in April 2014.
- The gap is relatively small up to, and including, the 30-39 age group (with the exception of the 16-17 age group). In fact, the gap is negative for the 22-29 and 30-39 age groups, meaning that women earn on average more than men. Thereafter, there is a relatively large positive gap.
- At the 90th percentile (higher earners), the gap is the lowest since the series began (18.3%), although over time this has remained largely consistent, fluctuating around 20%. For lower earners the gap has narrowed over the long term, to 5.9% in April 2014.
- In April 2014, the gender pay gap for the private sector decreased from 19.2% to 17.5%, the lowest since the series began in 1997. The gap in the private sector has consistently been greater than for the public sector.
- The gap in the public sector increased from 9.5% to 11%, although the report notes that this has been relatively stable over the longer term, fluctuating around 10% since 2003.
The report points out that the composition of the public and private sectors changes from year to year, and this will influence the figures presented. For example, in a given sector, creation of jobs in higher paying occupations with a high proportion of female employees would act to reduce the gap. The report omits to mention that clusters of higher paying jobs with a high proportion of female employees are found only in the public sector, where the pay gap is in fact widening.
For further information from the Office of National Statistics
For further information on the Annual Survey contact: James Tucker, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings email@example.com
The gender pay gap over time
In March 2014 the DCMS, using ONS data sources, carried out an analysis of how the gender pay gap has changed over time. A breakdown of the gender pay gap by age, occupation and income percentile is included. The analysis does not look at ethnicity, nor at region, but it is reasonable to suppose that the high concentrations of both men and women from ethnic minorities in particular regions and occupations and in part time working, must have an impact on the findings and on the conclusions that can be drawn from them.
- The gender pay gap for all staff in the UK in 2013 was 19.7 per cent, as measured by hourly earnings for all employees. This was marginally higher than in 2012, when the gender pay gap was 19.6 per cent. However, the pay gap has decreased markedly over the longer term. This paper looks at changes in the gender pay gap over this longer period by: age; occupation; & for high / low earners.
- The gender pay gap, and how it has changed over time, varies for the different age groups. In 2013, the gender pay gap was lowest for those in the youngest age groups. It then increases up to the 40 to 49 year old age group, before falling for the older age bands. Between 1997 and 2013, the gender pay gap has, in general, narrowed for all age bands up to and including 40 to 49 year olds. For the oldest age groups the pay gap has stayed fairly static since 2005.
- Median earnings rose faster between 1997 and 2013 for women between 30 and 39 than for any other age group. This has coincided with the pay gap for this age group decreasing by more than any other.
- The gender pay gap within different groups of occupations varies considerably, and has changed in different ways for occupations between 1997 and 2013: The pay gap has consistently been high for those in the skilled trades (plumbers, electricians etc.), & for managers and directors. The pay gap has been consistently lower than the national average for professional & associate professional occupations. With increased attendance at universities, there have been more people (and proportionately more women) entering these occupational groups.
- The gender pay gap across high and low earners also varies. In 2013 the gender pay gap was lowest for those in the 10th percentile of earnings (the value which 10% of the population earn less than). The pay gap has also decreased by the most for this group between 1997 and 2013. The gender pay gap has decreased in a similar manner for those between the 40th and 80th percentiles of earnings. However, the gender pay gap for those earning the most has not decreased by as much as the other groups between 1997 and 2013. This shows that the gap between the highest earning males and females is not narrowing at the same rate as the rest of the economy.
You can read the full report here.
A more detailed analysis
In June 2013 the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a Briefing which looks at the data from the 2012 Annual Survey of Hours and earnings in more depth. As well as overall trends the briefing looks at occupational groups; industries and sectors; UK nations and English regions; age bands, and gaps across the earnings distribution.
Employment Tribunal Statistics
Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal service publishes Quarterly Reports which show the number of cases filed with the Employment Tribunal. In 2012-2013, 23,638 equal pay claims (out of a total of 191,541 claims across all jurisdictions) were received.
The figures should be interpreted with caution, as unlike other jurisdictions, equal pay cases can take over a decade to reach a final determination. It is also difficult to distinguish between individual and multiple claims, and many, if not the majority of, equal pay claims are multiple claims. Attempts have been made to improve the system of recording the progress of all jurisdictions, but so far these have not proved to be practicable.