Briefing Note (BN186)

The gender wage gap

Date: 23 August 2016
Authors:
ISBN: 978-1-911102-21-2
DOI: 10.1920/BN.IFS.2016.0186

"If you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man." - From Theresa May’s first statement as Prime Minister
"Last year Britain was ranked 18th in the world for its gender pay gap ... We can and must do far better." - From Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign speech in July 2016

Gender wage differentials remain substantial and, as evidenced by the quotations above, a hot topic in policy debate. Inequalities between men and women are clearly of direct interest in their own right. In addition, poverty is increasingly a problem of low pay rather than lack of employment. The proportion of people in paid work is at a record high, and female employment has risen especially quickly, particularly among lone parents. Two-thirds of children in poverty now live in a household with someone in paid work.3 In an age when the main challenge with respect to poverty alleviation is to boost incomes for those in work, and when so many more women are in work than in the past, understanding the gender wage gap is all the more important.

This briefing note is the first output in a programme of work seeking to understand the gender wage gap and its relationship to poverty. Section 1 sets out what we mean by the gender wage gap, how it differs according to education level and how it has evolved over time and across generations. Section 2 provides some descriptive evidence on how the gender wage gap relates to the presence of dependent children and the employment outcomes associated with that.