Could the EHRC please stop lying about the gender pay gap? Please?


Yes, another report coming down the pike telling us all that women are so terribly hard done by in this grossly discriminatory and patriarchal society of ours. When the number used to prove this all to us is one that is known to be wrong, one that is in fact a statistical lie. From the EHRC's report today:

The decline in the average pay for men meant that the pay gap between men and women narrowed between 2008 and 2013, from 22.5% to 20%. While average pay for men dropped by roughly £1 per hour (to £12.91), women’s pay fell by 40 pence (to £10.33). The average hourly pay of women in Great Britain in 2013, therefore, remained significantly lower than that of men.

No, this is wrong. And what is more they've all been told that it's wrong, that they're not to use this number. That, in fact, when they are using this number they are, just around and about, lying. Because what they are doing there is comparing the average wages of all men and all women, all part timers and all full timers. And because part timers are paid less (for very good reason) and also 75% of part timers are women that is a horrendously misleading number to use. To the point that Sir Michael Scholar actually berated people for using it some years ago.

The Foreword to Shaping a Fairer Future includes a short discussion of the differences between the earnings of women compared with men. It notes that “women are still paid, on average, 22.6 per cent less per hour than men”. This measure is described in a footnote as the “overall median gender pay gap”. On 11 June I wrote to the Minister for Women and Equality, the Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman QC MP to express concern over the way in which the 22.6 per cent figure had been used in a Government Equalities Office Press Release. In the view of the Statistics Authority this particular estimate, when used on its own without qualification, risks giving a misleading quantification of the gender pay gap. The analysis underpinning this view has been published on the Authority website as a Monitoring and Assessment (M&A) note on the gender pay gap.1 The Foreword to Shaping a Fairer Future helpfully presents estimates for both an overall gender pay gap (22.6 per cent) and a full-time gender pay gap (12.8 per cent). This goes some way towards ensuring that readers understand the difference between these two estimates. However, it would have been clearer had these two estimates been presented alongside each other and accompanied by some explanation of the differences between the two measures. As it stands, the 22.6 per cent figure appears in the Foreword more as a headline estimate of the gender pay gap, while the 12.8 per cent estimate is presented in a different context, to show how the gap widened between 2007 and 2008.

It would be an easy mistake for a casual reader to conclude from the Foreword that if the overall gender pay gap stands at 22.6 per cent and the full-time gender pay gap stands at 12.8 per cent, then the part-time gender pay gap must be considerably greater than 22.6 per cent. Indeed, the Foreword appears to confirm just such a conclusion when it states that 'pay gaps are even greater for part-time workers (39.9 per cent)’. The casual reader would be surprised to learn then that median hourly earnings of women and of men (excluding overtime) are very close, with women’s median pay actually being slightly higher than men’s (by 3.4 per cent).

Sir Michael also wrote to Harriet Harperson on the same point:

I am writing to you about the Government Equalities Office (GEO) Press Release on the Equality Bill, issued on 27 April, which states that women are paid on average 23 per cent less per hour than men. GEO’s headline estimate of the difference between the earnings of women compared with men (generally referred to as the gender pay gap) is some 10 percentage points higher than the 12.8 per cent figure quoted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Yet both estimates are derived from the same source, the 2008 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). Such a difference in headline estimates is likely to confuse the general public. The Statistics Authority is concerned that this may undermine public trust in official statistics.

So, EHRC, this is a horribly misleading manner of presenting the gender pay gap. You've been told, repeatedly, that it's a horribly misleading way to present it. And you've also been told not to do it. So, why are you lying to us all?

Yes, we will accept an apology, no, no need to ritually execute your report writers in Salisbury Square, just correct your reports and, as Mother always told us all to do, when found to be in error, say sorry and promise not to do it again.