UK pay gap shrinks, but it’s not all good news

Good news! The pay gap in the UK is shrinking! BBC reports that this year, the pay gap between men and women shrank to 10.2%, the lowest it has ever been since the government began keeping track of it.

However, the news isn’t all good. While wages have risen for women on average, women who work part-time are paid a good deal less than men who work part-time. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that while 10.2% is an improvement, it represents only a 6.8% drop since 1997.

The general secretary of the Trade Union Congress is not optimistic about what austerity measures might do for future pay gap stats. “With hundreds of thousands of female public servants set to lose their jobs, there are real fears that women’s income could start to fall as they struggle to find work in the private sector, where the gender pay gap is twice as high,” he told the BBC.

Finally, it was announced not long ago that the government will no longer require business to publish their pay gap figures, making pay gap audits voluntary. The government will now check annually to see if businesses are improving pay gaps, but this represents a weakening of previous law, which would have introduced mandatory audits in 2013.

One Liberal Democrat MP – the Lib Dem’s platform included a promise of mandatory audits for companies with more than 100 employees – said, she expects businesses to check on their pay gaps voluntarily “because it’s the right thing to do and a good thing to do and it will improve business.”

Adam Marshall of the British Chambers of Commerce said that voluntary disclosure of pay gap data will not slow the closing of the gap. Of the new 10.2% number, Marshall said, “the decrease in the gender pay gap in 2010 shows how hard businesses are working to deliver equality in the workplace, without the need for mandatory audits.”

But opponents of the new voluntary system are calling it “naïve” and “a step back for women’s equality.” Ceri Goddard, head of the gender equality campaign the Fawcett Society said that “it sends a dangerous signal that tackling discrimination against women is a choice, not a requirement.”

UK readers, what do you think of the new measure? Have you experienced pay discrimination?

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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