The UK’s generational gap in the gender pay gap

In the UK, millennials close the gender pay gap to 5% whilst female workers in their 30s and 40s face a ‘rapid rise’ in pay inequality.

Katherine Soroya
4 January 2017
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Gender pay gap report. Joe Giddens PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.The Resolution Foundation has released findings which suggest that having children carries a “sharp and long-lasting” pay penalty, whilst more recent generations have closed the gap to just 5%.

Focusing on the more recent generations during their 20s, the think tank found that the gender pay gap fell from an average of 16% for baby boomers, to 9% for women in generation X, and then nearly halved in a generation to just 5% for millennials. This progress reflects a number of welcome trends in equalities legislation, maternity rights and welfare support, and higher education participation leading to more women breaking into high-paying occupations, and importantly, staying in them.

In contrast, women in the workforce in their 30s and early 40s face big increases in the pay gap, suggesting that women taking time out to have children still face exclusion from the labour market experience. Worryingly, this increase in the gender pay gap isn’t a short term phenomenon attached only to childbirth – it continues for decades. This is known as the ‘lifetime earnings penalty’.

The research also found that these old challenges associated with having children endure for young women today, so millennial women who may now experience a diminishing pay gap and a more equal labour market experience, will still expect to face a significant lifetime earnings penalty compared to their male counterparts in later years.

You can find out more about the gender pay gap, and why it matters, in Ray Filar’s piece on Britain’s struggle with austerity and its impact upon wage inequalities. Filar argues that demanding “equal pay for equal work” is more pertinent now than ever.

What does gender inequality mean for men? Agnish Ray reflects on the need to interrogate how Britain’s parental leave system continues to exclude men from family life – and exclude women from the workforce. Recent figures from HMRC show that despite recent changes to the law, only 4% of new fathers in the UK have opted to take any additional time off work for paternity leave, suggesting that whilst the law around parental leave has changed, the culture has not.

With the cost of childcare increasing by a third in just five years, Emily Wight investigates whether Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party and the recent surge in support for him, means that the damage of austerity, particularly to women, is finally being recognised. 

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