The Equal Pay Act 1970 attempted to eliminate gender pay differences. A simple concept – being paid for what you did rather than your gender. Over 40 years later, the Fawcett Society declared today Equal Pay Day. It was created to highlight the fact the gender pay gap has actually increased.
I am old enough to remember the Sex Equality Act 1975 and its initial impact. I also remember the culture shock it sent through society at grass roots level. There were long-established clubs and societies which were single gender (usually men-only) which became illegal.
In typical British fashion there was a wave of tongue-in-cheek employment adverts, one of which I recall clearly. It went something like, “builder’s labourer required – open to either gender. Must be prepared to strip to the waste in hot weather and share toilet with no door”. On the one hand, this was passed off as “building site humour”, it reflected an underlying attempt by some employers to circumvent the law. However, they faced fierce resistance by the authorities. It also caused an overreaction by some extreme feminists, but most reasonable and rational people accept prejudice driven by gender (or any other reason) was unacceptable.
In the past, it was rare to see a female bus or train driver. This is because there is still a male-dominance in many industries, engineering being an obvious example with over 90% male bias [i]. Nurses, secondary teachers, cleaners are amongst the occupations which see a female dominance.
Earlier still was the Equal Pay Act 1970 which attempted to eliminate gender pay differences. A simple concept – being paid for what you did rather than your gender. Over 40 years later, the Fawcett Society declared today as Equal Pay Day[ii]. It was created to highlight the fact the gender pay gap has actually increased. This is the day of the year when in relative terms women are working for free from today until the end of the year compared with her male counterparts in the UK[iii].
Is it coincidence that recent statistics show that women aged between 18 and 24 were almost twice as likely as men in the same age group in 2013 to enter some form of insolvency procedure?[iv] In this age group, the rate of men was 4 for every 10,000 compared with a rate of 7.8 for women.
The personal insolvency ratio for women 32.8 per 10,000 adults last year, while for men the ratio was 25.6 in the 25-34 age group.
There could of course be other influences such as the facts that women:
- tend to be employed in industry segments which attract lower wages
- have a low gender representation in higher paid jobs (consider for example MPs or High Court Judges)
- suffer career setbacks following childbirth
But after four decades of inequality and with a gap between male and female wages of over 15% (and widening) it is difficult to point the finger at anything other than chronic discrimination.
References and further reading
[ii] The Fawcett Society
[iii] The Fawcett Society – Gender Pay Gap