Women are reaching the peak of their earning power in the forties for the first time as fewer are forced to take lower paid jobs or quit work completely after having children, official figures revealed today.
And in another step forward for female workers – for those under the age of 40 the gender pay gap is now close to zero, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Today the ONS said that women in their forties now earn an average of £31,252 a year, or £601 a week, up from £30,628 a year, or £589 a week, when in their thirties.
It is a landmark moment because figures from previous years revealed that average weekly earnings fell by around £30 when a woman reached 40.
This is because in the past men were handed promotions and saw their pay surge as many more women took lower paid jobs or left work completely to care for their children.
But overall the gender pay gap for all full-time workers in the UK has widened slightly in the past year to an average of 8.9 per cent – up from 8.6 per cent in 2018 – having barely narrowed since 2012.
The gender pay gap is calculated as the difference between average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women as a proportion of average hourly earnings. The light blue line in all employees, including part time workers. The dark blue line is just for full time workers
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It means that that the median hourly pay, excluding overtime, for a full time working man is £15.34 – but for a women it’s £13.97.
Among professionals the 10 per cent highest paid women still earns a fifth less per hour than the 10 per cent highest paid men.
Women are paid £380,000 in total over a lifetime compared with £643,000 for men, according to official figures.
The difference in pay of all men and women workers, including those in part-time jobs has fallen from 17.8 per cent in 2018 to 17.3 per cent in 2019, and continues to fall, today’s report said.
The key findings of the report are:
- The gender pay gap among all employees fell from 17.8% in 2018 to 17.3% in 2019, and continues to decline.
- 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 11.4% – has decreased substantially over time.
- Women in their forties see their pay peak – rather than in their thirties as before;
- Among 50- to 59- year-olds and those over 60 years, the gender pay gap is over 15% and is not declining strongly over time.
The gap is narrowing in many areas – but in the top earning sectors for managers and directors the gap has widened in the past year
Average weekly earnings for full-time employees has increased by 2.9 per cent to £585 from last year, but after inflation is taken into account, the increase is just 0.9 per cent.
However, average weekly earnings in real terms are still 2.9 per cent lower than the peak in 2008, which was £603 in 2019 prices.
Weekly earnings for women peaked for those aged 40 to 49 in 2019 for the first time, the report said.
Full-time weekly earnings were the highest in the City of London at £1,052 and lowest in Newark and Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, at £431.
The number of full-time employees who experienced a real-term pay decrease fell from 43.3 per cent in 2018 to 35.7 per cent in 2019, the report said.
Speaking about the latest figures, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it would take ‘decades’ to close the gender pay gap at the current rate.
She said: ‘Government must pick up the pace. It’s clear that publishing gender pay gaps isn’t enough on its own.
‘Companies must also be legally required to explain how they’ll close them.’
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: ‘Progress to close the gender pay gap is dismally slow and at this rate it will take 60 years to eradicate it.
‘Too many women are trapped in low paid part-time work or locked out of non-traditional sectors while others experience pay or pregnancy discrimination.’