Despite the David Cameron’s pledge to eradicate the gender pay gap within a generation, a new report released by the Women and Equalities Select Committee reveals it has barely improved for four years.
Although the government has introduced measures, including making big companies reveal their salary divide, and attempting to increase board representation for women at leading companies, the pay gap remains at 19.2%, meaning that, on average, women earn 80p for every £1 earned by men.
As it stands, women over the age of 40 are most affected, with those between 50 and 59 facing a 27% gap.
The Women and Equalities Select Committee says that the government is “complicit in a system that is undermining productivity and perpetuating the gender pay gap.”
Committee chair and Conservative MP, Maria Miller, says:
“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.”
According to the report, if the pay gap continues at its current rate, the economy will face a loss of £36 billion.
Miller says that “if the government is serious about long-term, sustainable growth it must invest in tackling the root causes of the gender pay gap. Adopting our recommendations would be a significant step towards achieving the goal of eliminating the gender pay gap within a generation."
The committee broke-down their recommendations into four main categories:
Flexible working hours:
The committee recommendations include making all jobs “flexible by default from the outset”, unless there is a strong business case against it, in order to provide more support for women returning to work after having children.
According to the report, 41% of female employees work part-time, compared with 12% of men, and hourly wages for part-time workers are lower than those working full-time.
“Many women take low-paid jobs below their skill levels because too many employers still think that a nine-to-five office-based working environment is the only show in town,” says Miller.
“We think of part-time work as the only way to get flexibility, but we’ve learnt through the evidence we’ve gathered that it can actually trap women in low paid roles with no progression.”
The committee predicts that allowing people to work flexible hours could boost the economy by £11 billion.
The committee has also recommended the introduction of three months’ well-paid, non-transferable leave for fathers and second parents, to encourage parents to split childcare more evenly.
Support for mothers returning to work:
The government has also been urged to introduce a scheme which helps women who are returning to work after having children. It would be called the “national pathways to work” scheme.
More attention on lower-paid roles:
As women make-up the largest number of employees in lower-income sectors such as social care and retail - holding 59% of minimum wage jobs - Miller has called upon the Conservatives to turn the focus of the gender pay gap towards these “highly feminised” roles, as opposed to the higher-income roles on which the discussion usually focusses.
The report calls for the government to introduce an industrial strategy to encourage better wages in these sectors.
The government has two months to respond to the committee's recommendations.
The news comes soon after researchers at Cornell University revealed that, as women began to dominate historically male-dominated industries, the overall pay drops – suggesting that work done by women simply isn’t valued as highly as the same conducted by men.
On Wednesday, a report to be published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, will reveal that campaigns to get more women onto FTSE 100 boards, have been unsuccessful.