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Gender pay gap still a major issue in Wales

18 December 2013

The underlying gender pay gap in Wales is significantly wider than the latest headline UK earning figures would indicate according to recent research.

The 2013 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) just released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed the gap in median hourly earnings between all male and female workers in Wales was 16.5%, with men earning £11.70 per hour and women £9.77.

However the EU-backed Women Adding Value to the Economy (WAVE) project at Cardiff University pointed out that, since nearly half of women in Wales (47%), work in low graded low paid part time jobs, the actual gap was more than double the headline figure.

Using the latest ASHE figures and other workforce data, the researchers compared male full-time median hourly pay with female part-time median hourly pay and identified a gender pay gap of 35%.

Their analysis showed that women occupy 80% of all part-time jobs in Wales while men occupy 64% of full time jobs. (Source Annual Population Survey 2004-2010).  These part-time posts are mainly in roles such as caring, cleaning, catering, clerical and customer service, which tend to attract lower hourly pay rates.

The team also warned that, because these 'feminised' jobs are often only offered on a part time basis, with little opportunity for training or routes out of such work, women can 'get stuck' in such working patterns for decades (Doogan, 2005).

The WAVE team analysed the latest figures from ASHE 2013 as part of their work to understand the connection between occupational segregation and gender pay disparities in Wales.

For the whole economy, the most recent ASHE[1] figures, demonstrate gross median hourly gender pay gaps in Wales of:

  • 16.5% or £11.70 vs. £9.77 per hour between all male and female workers, full and part time, excluding overtime:
  • 8.3% or £12.27 vs. £11.25 per hour between men and women working full time; excluding overtime:
  • 35% or £12.27 vs. £8.00 per hour between men's full time median hourly earnings and women's part time median hourly earnings; excluding overtime:
  • 29% or £11.25 vs. £8.00 between women's median hourly full time earnings and women's median hourly part time earnings.

The gross median hourly earnings gender pay gap of 16.5% for all employees in Wales shows a 0.45% decrease on the gap reported in 2012. The equivalent gap for the UK was 19.5%.

However WAVE Strand 1 project director and senior research fellow at the School of Social Sciences, Dr Alison Parken, said: "the smaller headline gender pay gap in Wales is explained, not by greater equality, but by the fact that there are fewer high-earning men here than in other parts of the UK, particularly London and the South East."

She said that, on average, women's part time earnings in Wales are around £7,696 per year, with this work being concentrated in low-hours low-graded work in feminised occupations.

"Nearly twice as many women as men in the UK have two or more jobs (ONS: QLFS March – May 2013). This demonstrates that part time work is not always a preference, as some commentators have claimed, but rather many women want and need to work more hours to make ends meet. Although more men are working on a part time basis since the recession, this tends to be on a temporary basis at the beginning and end of working life.

"The gross median hourly earnings gap between women who work part time and men who work full time is 35%, and between women working part time and women working full time, 29% Gaining higher graded work is associated with a full time working pattern."

The research team said it made these calculations for two reasons:

Firstly, men and women in the same job are legally required to earn the same hourly rate of pay, whether working full or part time hours. However, as part time work is usually confined to low graded feminised jobs, direct full time male or even female comparators are hard to find, with the result that this legal right rarely applies in practice (Rubery 2013).

Secondly, as the vast majority of part time workers are women, these comparisons demonstrate the pay penalty for part time working arrangements. Higher graded work, and therefore higher hourly pay, is associated with work offered on a full time basis.

Examination of ASHE data for individual sectors and occupations underlined that the gender pay gap runs through nearly all areas of the workforce.

This shows a 17% pay gap between men and women working as senior managers or officials in Wales. There is also a gap of 28% between men and women working in skilled trades, although work in skilled trades accounts for just 1.62% of all women's full time work in Wales, such is the male domination of these occupations. There is a 14.5% pay gap between men and women working full time in elementary occupations.

In the latter occupational grouping, men are much more likely to be offered full time work. Seventy-five per cent of women in elementary occupations work on a part time basis, compared to 25% of men (Source APS 2004-2010, from a forthcoming report Parken, Pocher and Davies, 'A gender occupational and pay map of Wales').

"Occupational and contract segregation are significant contributors to gender pay gaps and closer analysis of this will, in future, tell us much more about how to address them", Dr Parken concluded.  

WAVE is a partnership between Cardiff University, the University of South Wales and the Women's Workshop. Find out more at

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