From the TUC

Women’s pay and employment – a public/private sector comparison

14 Mar 2012, by in Labour market

A TUC report to the Women’s Conference, published today, highlights the employment challenges currently facing women. The report shows that with many thousands of skilled professional women in the public sector set to lose their jobs, the concentration of female private sector employment in low skilled and poorly paid sectors poses a big challenge to their pay and career prospects.

The report shows that despite progress, women’s employment in the private sector remains concentrated around the five ‘Cs’ – caring, catering, cashiering, cleaning and clerical work. As a result the gender pay gap for women working full time is twice as high in the private sector (18.4 %) as it is in the public sector (9.2 %). In contrast many women working in the public sector work in associate professional or professional level jobs. And although part-time women suffer a significant pay penalty in both public and private sectors this is lower in the public sector. It is also still the case that a substantial part of the female workforce is employed on a part-time basis (43% of women compared to 13% of men).[i]

Gender Pay Gap – Breakdown for median hourly earnings, excluding overtime, for public and private sectors (2011 data)

  Public Sector Private Sector
All Employees 18% 26.8%
Full-Time Employees 9.2% 18.4%
Part-Time Employees[ii] 36.3% 42.8%

Analysis carried out by the TUC using data from the Annual Survey of Earnings 2011 (using Gross Weekly earnings ) further explores pay for women in the public and private sector. This analysis finds that:

  • Almost a third of women (28 %) working full time earn less than £300 in the private sector compared to (8 %) in the public sector.
  • Over half of all women (56%) earn less than £300 in the private sector compared to just over a third (35 %) in the public sector.
  • Over three quarters of women working part time in the private sector (77 %) earn less than £200 compared to less than half (47%) in the public sector.
  • Low paid jobs are far more prevalent in the private than public sectors, with 17 per cent of full-time workers earning less than £300 in the private sector, compared to only 6 %of public sector workers

To view the full analysis – download full report  

Charts 1 and 2 from the analysis highlight the proportion of full-time women and men at different earnings intervals. It is clearly evident from the charts  that women in full-time jobs are more evenly spread through different earnings levels in the public sector than in the private sector where they are more concentrated at the lower end of the income distribution.

Chart 1: Private sector distribution of gross weekly earnings for full-time employees 2011

Chart 2: Public sector distribution of gross weekly earning for full-time employees 2011

(Source – ONS)

It is not just the smaller gender pay gap that women benefit from in the public sector; the public sector has been a better source of flexible work and well paid part time work for many women as well as offering better pension provision. The public sector has been more responsive to the needs of women by offering more skilled, well paid, part time jobs.

The report shows that the impact of cuts in public sector jobs will be severe on women as they make up 65 per cent of the public sector workforce. Even if women are able to find employment in the private sector will it match the pay, pension and employment prospects of the jobs they have lost in the public sector? The analysis in the report suggests that it will not. As many women could find themselves having to take lower skilled work and a significant pay cut. This would result in a widening of the overall gender pay gap and worsening levels of female poverty. And, given the significant contribution women’s earnings have made to low and middle income households over the past four decades, it could lead to poorer life chances for the hardest hit families too.

To view the full report  – download here