A closer look at the UK’s gender pay gap

28 February 2017

Each year we publish our assessment of female economic empowerment across 33 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.The results from this year’s Women in Work Index reveal the UK has climbed to its highest ever position, now ranking at 13th in the index, up one place from last year.

However, while the pay gap on a national level is narrowing, our analysis shows that it could still take until 2041 (24 years) to close it. The research highlights the segregation between men and women, both across industries and job roles, as one of the biggest factors contributing to the gap.

There's also a varied picture at a regional level. The West Midlands has the largest gender pay gap at 21%. More than half of women in the region are employed in lower-paying sectors such as wholesale and retail trade, and health services.

Northern Ireland has the smallest gender pay gap, falling from 22% in 2000 to 6% now. This is partly driven by a higher than average share of women working in public administration, which has a smaller gender pay gap.

It’s great that women in the UK have benefitted from the improving economy and there are now more women in work than ever before, but we still have a way to go. By fully closing the gender pay gap we could boost women’s earnings by around £85 billion in the UK, which is an average of around £6,000 per woman per year.

While it’s encouraging that the UK is making progress on closing the gender pay gap, it is unfortunate that it will still take another generation to close it completely. Pay reporting requirements should help speed up change as businesses will face greater accountability. But merely reporting numbers without any concrete action, won’t change anything.

We know that women are here to thrive and succeed. We need to make sure that workplaces are inclusive and support their needs, and that we create enough skilled and senior roles that have the flexibility to accommodate work and caring responsibilities.



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