Whether you’re from the generation of Bruce Forsyth, Larry Grayson or Jim Davidson, differences in pay between genders continue to exist and haven’t necessarily improved since the early days of Brucie. In fact, although the ONS reported back in November 2020 an all-time low pay gap of 7.4%, this masked significant differences between different age groups, with the ONS reporting that the ‘gender pay gap remained close to zero for full-time employees aged under 40 years but was over 10% for older age groups’.
A study by digital community ‘Rest Less’ reported earlier this year found that older women face a greater gender pay gap than their younger counterparts, with the gender pay gap between full-time male and female employees being at its widest for those aged over 50. Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, commented: “Women in their 50s and 60s face the double discrimination of age bias, combined with the widest gender pay gap of all ages, receiving a salary of £8,000 less per year than their male counterparts in full-time employment”. The findings also report that the male and female pensionable age has been equalised at 66 years, yet “decades of a gender pay gap and the resulting wide gulf in private pension savings mean that the future retirement incomes of men and women remain far from equal”. Rest Less reports a 23% pay gap between full-time working men and women in their 50s, averaging £8,427 a year, compared to a gender pay gap of just 3% between men and women aged 18-21, 9% for those aged 22-29 and 12% for those in their 30s.
So it seems that older women are getting the raw end of the deal, but is that entirely the case? Whilst the narrowing of the overall gender pay gap is welcome, other analysis suggests that COVID has played a significant role closing the gender pay gap at the detriment of younger women. The ONS reported that “coronavirus (COVID-19) factors did not have a notable impact on the gender pay gap in 2020”, and that changes reported in their report “reflect underlying employment patterns”. Joe Levenson, Director of Communications and Campaigns at Young Women's Trust warned that “Young women on low pay were already struggling to get by before the coronavirus crisis hit and since then many suffered a loss of earnings because of redundancy or juggling precarious and insecure work with caring responsibilities.”
Sam Smethers, CEO at the Fawcett Society warned as the government did not enforce reporting in 2020 that there is only a “partial picture because the impact of coronavirus means a quarter of employers are missing from the data set”. With so many previously low-paid young women now out of the reportable workforce due to coronavirus, the data must surely be skewed. Research by Professor Susan Milner from the University of Bath explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the gender pay gap, and how more robust reporting by employers is necessary to help assess the impacts and make meaningful changes. The issue is more than women have lost their jobs and therefore are no longer included in the gender pay gap reporting – the gap is closing but female unemployment is rising.
So, the “Genderation” game conveyor belt continues to roll, with COVID adding another momentous marker to the delay for fair pay. Age is yet another lens to consider in gender pay analysis making this type of analysis more complex, especially when you need to dig under the surface to uncover the risk.
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