It's 2016 and the gender pay gap is still very much a thing in this country. A report, which has been published today by the Women and Equalities Select Committee, says that the 19.2% gap between what men and women earn has barely improved over the last four years. According to the Committee, the government has failed to close the gap.
Maria Miller, chairwoman of the committee, said: ‘The gender pay gap is holding back women and that isn't going to change unless the government changes its policies now.’
‘The pay gap represents a massive loss to the UK's economy and we must address it in the face of an ageing workforce, a skills crisis and the need for a more competitive economy.’
All this despite the fact that multiple campaigns have been launched to close the gap, despite the government’s pledge to eradicate it within a generation. On average, because of the gap for full- and part-time workers, a woman earns, on average, about 80p for every £1 earned by a man.
The inescapable truth about the gender pay gap is this: it won’t close until we sort out childcare and low part-time wages (there are, proportionately, more women than men in part-time work). This is all about biology, women bear the children and, in this society, take on the majority of childcare. Childcare is so expensive that many women can’t afford to go back to work because of high nursery bills.
For the first time in history women in their 20s are actually earning more than their male counterparts. The gender pay gap amongst people in their 20s has actually been reversed by young women. It’s later in life that their earning power is still overtaken by men.
Data from the Office for National Statisticsshows that between the ages of 22 and 29 a woman will typically earn £1,111 more a year than her male counterparts. The same cannot be said however, for women in their 30s.
According to the data, a man turning 30 in 2006 would have brought home, on average, £8,775 more than a woman of the same age.
The gap appears when women reach 29 and above, this is also close to the average age that women get married for the first time(30) and have their first child.
The MPs behind the report have said that policies are need to ‘tackle barriers such as women’s disproportionate responsibility for childcare and low part-time wages.’ They have also warned that the UK’s economy is suffering because of this – it’s estimate that a failure to use women’s skills is costing the country around £36bn a year.
Frances O'Grady, secretary general of the TUC also said: ‘If we don't tackle problems like occupational segregation, the motherhood pay penalty and barriers to more equal parenting, the gender pay gap will take decades to close.’
Young women start their working lives off ahead of men, they take off confidently but find themselves overtaken when they stop, or put things on hold, to have children. We might not consider it in our 20s, when having children seems a long way off but what this report confirms is that the gender pay gap is, largely, about women’s bodies. It’s about a need for better, more affordable childcare and flexible working which would allow women to juggle their responsibilities.
The Women's Equality Partyhave also said they will campaign for free childcare and better maternity rights. Government funded childcare is what they want. If we want to reverse the pay gap once and for all things have got to change, something will have to give.
Youg might also be interested in:
Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.