The gender pay gap


The Office of National Statistics has released its figures on pay for this year, something which has set off the annual bleating about the gender pay gap.

The Office for National Statistics said that the difference in earnings of women and men in full-time employment rose by 0.1% over the year. For part-timers, the gap increased to more than 36%.

As I've had occasion to mention before, that part-time pay gap is something of a fraud. For it is comparing the wages per hour earned by women working part-time with those of men working full-time, thus conflating two entirely different things. Part-timers everywhere earn less than full-timers, so this is nothing whatever to do with gender. Indeed, from the same ONS ASHE figures we can calculate that the part-time pay gap for women (ie, part-time women compared with full-time women) is 14% and that for men 27%. we are clearly therefore not dealing solely with a gender issue.

However, there's another aspect to this which interests me. From the TUC's briefing paper *on the subject we find on page 14 that (by a slightly different measure) the gender pay gap in the UK is 20%, that in Denmark 18%, in Sweden 16%. So this isn't something that can be explained by the absence of social democracy, the absence of free childcare, the absence of comprehensive union agreements, for those things do indeed exist in those places.

Indeed, it would appear that even sky high taxes, extended maternity leave, compulsory paternity leave and so on, things which are urged here and exist there, don't have that much effect either. In fact, if the average wage is some £23,000 a year then that 2% difference with Denmark is £460 a year, or under £10 a week.

Now I agree, £10 a week is indeed £10 a week, but that diminution of the gender pay gap comes as the result of a great deal of effort and expense. Is it actually worth it? Might it not be worth simply shrugging our shoulders and moving on to more tractable problems, where our efforts will have rather more of a result?

*Footnote 18 also tells us that the TUC uses mean pay to calculate the gap against the advice of the ONS. Using the median would reveal a lower gap, something which would never do.