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Age, gender and pay: A matter of ‘generation’, industry or gendered roles in the lifespan?

by on December 17, 2015

Is the gender pay gap a ‘generational thing’? As reported here in the Huffington Post, this is the suggestion of Lord Freud, Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions. He has declared that the gender pay gap has ‘disappeared’ for young women.

This is not of course the same as saying that the gender pay gap has disappeared;  the average pay gap between men and women for full time UK workers stood at 9.4% as at April 2015, compared with 9.6% in 2014, according to the the Office for National Statistics.  Although this is the narrowest difference since the figures were first published in 1997, the World Economic Forum believes it will take another 118 years for the global pay gap between men and women to close completely. Oh dear!

In the meantime, it’s interesting to examine the relationship between age, gender and pay. Lord Freud’s claim that the pay gap is ‘generational’ wasn’t apparently linked to any particular statistics. However, analysis by the Press Association of ONS figures reported earlier this year suggested that women between the ages of 22 and 29 typically earn £1,111 more per annum than their male counterparts (as, for example, reported here in The Guardian). At that stage, it was also noted that women’s earning power was overtaken by that of men later in life.

The position in relation to age gets more complex when different fields of work are introduced to the mix. For example, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) reports that women over 40 in management roles are paid 35% less than men, a much greater disparity than the 19% average gap across the whole economy. As reported this week here in the Guardian, once women in senior jobs enter their 60s, the gender pay gap widens further to 38%. The CMI have produced a handy infographic to illustrate this:

 Mind the gender pay gap


So what is going on? Is it to do with ‘generation’, gendered roles across lifespan (in particular, caring responsibilities) or particular sectors of the labour market? Or all of these? This could be one of those instances where the dreaded phrase ‘more research is needed’ really are justified.

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