Women are being held back by unrewarding, low-paid, part-time work
Despite some progress, women still take the lion’s share of domestic and family responsibilities. Over 40% of women, compared to just 12% of men, work part-time. This is part of the reason that progress on closing the gender pay gap has been so painfully slow.
There are far too few opportunities to work flexibly or part-time in well-paid jobs. This is having a damaging effect on women’s pay and progression.
Part-time women workers are more likely to be in lower skilled, lower paid roles in the private sector. These are mostly in the 5 C’s: caring, clerical, cashiering, catering and cleaning. Just 12% of women working part-time in the private sector are in high-skilled jobs. Three times that proportion are in high-skilled roles in the public sector. (Check out the annex at the bottom of this post to see what jobs are officially classified in each skill level).
Female employment by skill level
Source: LFS Q2 2016
The below graph shows how median hourly pay for women working part-time has steadily increased since 2003, when the right to request flexible working came into effect. But part-timers in the private sector have not made such good progress:
Median part-time women’s pay (excluding overtime) 2003-2016
Percentile hourly pay (excluding overtime), female part-time employees
(x axis = £8.45, Living Wage)
Source: ASHE 2016 (note: 20th percentile private sector data unavailable)
What can we do about it?
Next spring, employers are going to have to start looking at their own gender pay gaps. They’ll have to publish the information by April 2018.
The TUC has argued that employers should work with unions and their members to understand what lies behind the pay gap and women’s experiences of the workplace. We’ve also said the law should be strengthened so that employers are required not just to publish some numbers but to take action to close the gap.
As part of this exercise, employers should look at how pay and job quality compares for part-timers and full-timers. And if they are serious about narrowing the gender pay gap in their workplace, most will need to open up more opportunities for reduced hours or flexible working in senior jobs. They also need to look at the excessive working hours expected of those in full-time jobs. Perhaps then more women with caring responsibilities could continue in full-time work.
We need to see an end to the majority of part-time women working in the private sector earning less than the Living Wage. With higher inflation and slower pay growth forecast in 2017, we’re worried next year could see the return of a squeeze on living standards. Tomorrow’s Autumn Statement is a perfect opportunity for the government to give working people a pay rise.
This post is the last in a series we’ve been running on women in the labour market. We’ve also posted a historical overview, analysis of self-employment, comparisons with Europe, and info on public sector cuts and the gender pay gap.
Annex: official classification of skill levels
Source: ONS (note, they number the skill categories from 1 ( low ) to 4 (high) – the terminology used here is mine).