The gender pay gap is closing but welfare cuts will hit women hardestby / July 9, 2015 / Leave a comment
Amid all the macho braying and fist pumping that accompanied the delivery of today’s Budget, there was some seemingly positive news for women, although not quite enough to prompt a full scale smile from Theresa May. Considering the minimal space devoted to gender equality in the Tory manifesto I was surprised to hear the Chancellor boasting that the gender pay gap has fallen to a record low of 19.1 per cent, coupled with the good news that a record number of women are in employment. A cause for celebration you might think, but the figures require closer scrutiny.
Yes, the pay gap is falling, albeit slowly, and the number of women attending university now outstrips men, which is helping female graduates gain access to higher paid jobs, but as a spokesperson for the Fawcett Society said “this is a case of the easiest fruit being picked”. It does nothing to address the issue of the “motherhood pay gap”, which I have written about before on my Prospect blog. While UK women aged 30 working full-time now earn 81p an hour more than men on average, this trend quickly reverses, with a 39-year-old woman earning 12 per cent less than her male counterpart, and a 40-59-year-old woman experiencing a pay gap of 26 per cent.
The truth is that there is little in this budget to spark the type of structural change needed to help women gain economic independence. While the government’s offer of 30 hours a week free childcare for three and four-year-olds for working families is a baby step in the right direction there are concerns that lower income women will suffer. “Lots of the welfare cuts and tinkering with tax credits will hurt women in particular because women are particularly dependent on the welfare state…our praise of the government needs to be qualified in that regard, ” said the Fawcett Society.