The introduction of gender pay gap reporting obligations was never expected to herald a quick fix of generations of pay inequality, but the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed the unwelcome news that the gender pay gap among full-time employees has in fact increased in recent times. It now stands at 8.9 per cent – a decline of only 0.6 percentage points since 2012. Slow progress indeed and it will be some years before we see whether the reporting obligations themselves are delivering change.

Underpinning the figures was a discrepancy in pay levels relating to age group. The ONS research showed that, for age groups under 40 years, the gender pay gap for full-time employees is now close to zero. Among 40- to 49-year-olds the gap, currently at 11.4 per cent, has decreased substantially over time, but for 50- to 59- year-olds and those over 60 years, the gap is over 15 per cent and is not declining strongly over time.

According to the ONS, the difference between age groups comes, in part, as a result of women over 40 years old being more likely to work in lower-paid occupations and less likely to work as senior officials, managers or directors, in comparison with their younger counterparts.

Looking at the bigger picture, the statistics show that the gender pay gap among all employees fell from 17.8 per cent in 2018 to 17.3 per cent in 2019, and continues to decline, although estimates that it will take at least 60 years to equalise pay don’t appear to be too far off the mark on these figures.

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