Mind the gap – still

BY Richard Summerfield

There have been some marked improvements in the workplace for women in the UK in recent years, according to a new report from PwC – ‘Women in Work Index 2017’ – which is based on data from 2015. The report notes that not only have female employment rates improved, there has also been a narrowing of the gender pay gap and a reduction in the gap between male and female labour force participation rates.

However, the progress made of late can only be seen as a qualified success, according to PwC. The report, in which PwC measures levels of female economic empowerment across five key areas – the gender pay gap, female labour force participation, the gap between male and female labour force participation, female unemployment and female full-time employment rate – indicates that in many OCED countries, there is still considerable work to be done.

There has been some significant progress made in a number of jurisdictions, however. The UK, for example, now ranks 13th out of 33 OECD countries, second to Canada in the G7 in terms of female economic empowerment. However, the UK still lags behind on the number of female workers in full-time employment, ranking 30th out of 33 countries, well below the OECD average. Indeed, the UK has only a small proportion of women in full-time work, leaving it in 13th place behind the Nordic countries, Poland and Canada. However, it is ahead of France, Germany, the US, Japan and Italy.

The portion of UK women in full time work is not the only issue, however. It is important for women to be employed in a greater variety of industries, including those that offer better career opportunities. "It's not just about getting more women working, but also about getting more of them into high quality jobs that offer career progression and flexibility," said Yong Jing Teow, an economist at PwC.

While the gender gap does appear to be closing, it will take time to achieve gender parity. According to PwC’s estimates, in the UK at least, the gap will finally close in 2041. Across Europe, however, progress could be quicker. PwC’s data suggests that Poland, Luxembourg and Belgium could close their respective gaps within the next 20 years. The US will not see its gap closed for at least another 50 years. Germany will not see its gap closed for another century, if current historical trends continue, and Spain’s  may not close for over 200 years.

Closing the gender pay gap would be lucrative in the long term. Achieving pay parity in the OECD, for example, could increase total female earnings by $2 trillion.

Report: PwC Women in Work Index 2017

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