There is an inextricable link between low pay and the gender pay gap. Women are more likely to be badly paid, more likely to be unemployed or underemployed, and more likely to have insecure work or be in badly paid sectors.
The excess of women on the breadline doesn’t get the same headlines as the paucity of women in the boardroom. But it’s every bit as big a problem.
Low paid work
For every City of London Managing Director there’s a cleaner who arrives at 4am to hoover the office. The former is four times as likely to be male – the latter twice as likely to be female.
25% of women are paid below the living wage, compared to 15% of men; this means women make up 61% of low earners. Women are also half as likely again as men to be in the small group paid less than the minimum wage.
- The message is clear – help low paid people and you help women. By working with trade unions to ensure the minimum wage gets enforced and to make the living wage mandatory, we can protect women from disproportionate levels of exploitation – or at very least ensure they suffer less as a result of the gender pay gap.
Part of the reason women earn less than men is that they work in the worst paid sectors. This accounts for 12% of the gender pay gap. The worst paid jobs are in hospitality (where 68% earn less than the living wage), retail (41%), and social care or health work (22%) – all sectors dominated by women.
- This is where ‘cultural change’ – the Tories’ favourite phrase – really can be a driver for change. There’s still a stigma to a man becoming a carer or serving dinner at a school – or, for that matter, a women getting a job in construction or engineering. We need more focus on education, to break the cycle that ties gender to job and get more people into the careers they’re best-suited to.
Unemployment and underemployment
Moreover, women across Europe are twice as likely as men to be underemployed. A quarter of women work part time – a large proportion of whom have to downgrade to unskilled work. This compares with just 8% of men.
- We need organisations to embrace an ethos which welcomes women back to work when they’re ready, rather than rushing them back after 6 weeks. And, with women often suffering lacking confidence after having children, we need companies to be better at maintaining contact with women, so they feel comfortable returning to work.
- We must also work to eliminate Zero Hours contracts, which are 6% more common among women than men.