The gender pay gap will not close for 57 years

New research suggests it will take two generations for women to achieve pay parity with men.

Working women face a 57-year wait before they are paid the same as their male colleagues, according to new research.

The study, by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), shows that female managers' pay rose by 2.8 per cent in the past 12 months, while male managers' pay rose by 2.3 per cent. However, women on average earned £10,000 less than their male counterparts. If change continues at this rate, it will take 57 years for the gap to close.

The findings, from more than 43,000 employees across 200 organisations, show that male pay exceeds female pay by as much as 24 per cent at senior level. Even at a junior level, male employees earned roughly £1,000 more than their female peers.

It's a depressing state of affairs. The pay gap exists throughout Europe, but is worse than average in the UK: women are paid 79 per cent of male rates, while the EU average is 82 per cent.

How can this process be speeded up? The key is greater transparency: forcing companies to release details of the salaries they pay to men and women, shaming them into equalising, or at the very least, justifying the discrepancy. In part, the UK's gender pay gap persists because of the culture of secrecy around salaries: women might not know that they are being underpaid.

However, when Harriet Harman suggested full gender pay audits in 2008, she was met with outrage. The controversial Equality Bill eventually passed this year, in watered-down form -- giving government the right to force through full gender pay audits by 2013 if sufficient statistical information has not been given voluntarily.

David Cameron pledged last month to keep parts of the bill, saying that where there was "evidence of unfairness", firms would be forced to do a full audit. But it is expected to be mandatory only if employers are found guilty of sex discrimination at a tribunal.

As the bill was passed, the then Labour MP Vera Baird said: "The bill will work only if it is driven and pressed through society." She was right. Given the Conservatives' response to the Equality Bill, which is lukewarm at best and, on the right wing of the party, vehemently antagonistic, it seems unlikely that the legislation will be enforced. Fifty-seven years it is, then.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Forget planning for no deal. The government isn't really planning for Brexit at all

The British government is simply not in a position to handle life after the EU.

No deal is better than a bad deal? That phrase has essentially vanished from Theresa May’s lips since the loss of her parliamentary majority in June, but it lives on in the minds of her boosters in the commentariat and the most committed parts of the Brexit press. In fact, they have a new meme: criticising the civil service and ministers who backed a Remain vote for “not preparing” for a no deal Brexit.

Leaving without a deal would mean, among other things, dropping out of the Open Skies agreement which allows British aeroplanes to fly to the United States and European Union. It would lead very quickly to food shortages and also mean that radioactive isotopes, used among other things for cancer treatment, wouldn’t be able to cross into the UK anymore. “Planning for no deal” actually means “making a deal”.  (Where the Brexit elite may have a point is that the consequences of no deal are sufficiently disruptive on both sides that the British government shouldn’t  worry too much about the two-year time frame set out in Article 50, as both sides have too big an incentive to always agree to extra time. I don’t think this is likely for political reasons but there is a good economic case for it.)

For the most part, you can’t really plan for no deal. There are however some things the government could prepare for. They could, for instance, start hiring additional staff for customs checks and investing in a bigger IT system to be able to handle the increased volume of work that would need to take place at the British border. It would need to begin issuing compulsory purchases to build new customs posts at ports, particularly along the 300-mile stretch of the Irish border – where Northern Ireland, outside the European Union, would immediately have a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which would remain inside the bloc. But as Newsnight’s Christopher Cook details, the government is doing none of these things.

Now, in a way, you might say that this is a good decision on the government’s part. Frankly, these measures would only be about as useful as doing your seatbelt up before driving off the Grand Canyon. Buying up land and properties along the Irish border has the potential to cause political headaches that neither the British nor Irish governments need. However, as Cook notes, much of the government’s negotiating strategy seems to be based around convincing the EU27 that the United Kingdom might actually walk away without a deal, so not making even these inadequate plans makes a mockery of their own strategy. 

But the frothing about preparing for “no deal” ignores a far bigger problem: the government isn’t really preparing for any deal, and certainly not the one envisaged in May’s Lancaster House speech, where she set out the terms of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, or in her letter to the EU27 triggering Article 50. Just to reiterate: the government’s proposal is that the United Kingdom will leave both the single market and the customs union. Its regulations will no longer be set or enforced by the European Court of Justice or related bodies.

That means that, when Britain leaves the EU, it will need, at a minimum: to beef up the number of staff, the quality of its computer systems and the amount of physical space given over to customs checks and other assorted border work. It will need to hire its own food and standards inspectors to travel the globe checking the quality of products exported to the United Kingdom. It will need to increase the size of its own regulatory bodies.

The Foreign Office is doing some good and important work on preparing Britain’s re-entry into the World Trade Organisation as a nation with its own set of tariffs. But across the government, the level of preparation is simply not where it should be.

And all that’s assuming that May gets exactly what she wants. It’s not that the government isn’t preparing for no deal, or isn’t preparing for a bad deal. It can’t even be said to be preparing for what it believes is a great deal. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.