Rosie the Riveter. Photo: Wikipedia
Show Hide image

More female plumbers, but they suffer worst pay gap

Female tradespeople lose out.

A survey published last week charting the rise in the number of female tradespeople was celebrated as a triumph for gender equality. Sadly the cheers may have been raised too soon, a new study shows.

According to new research conducted by Labour into gender pay gaps across sectors, which the Staggers can reveal exclusively, skilled trades are the worst industries for pay differences between men and women.

Female plumbers, electricians and carpenters earn on average a shocking 30 per cent less than their male colleagues.  Manufacturing and processing operatives rank second worst, with an average 22 per cent pay gap.

The statistics come as a blow, after a 10,000-person survey by IronmongeryDirect published last week revealed that almost 6 per cent of tradespeople were now women. 

Puns about the rise of "white van woman" aside, the growth in the number of female plasterers, builders and other skilled trades roles was seen as a boon for gender equality.

One positive finding in Labour's research, which otherwise depicted a bleak landscape for equal pay, was around part-time work. It found that the gender pay gap for those in part-time work saw women come out on top in almost every sector. 

Depressingly, the one area in which women still lag behind men in part-time work, however, is in the highest paid jobs. Female managers, directors and senior officials earn almost 15 per cent less than their male equivalents.

It is a dispiriting statistic, particularly since women who choose to work part-time in these occupations often do so to balance family commitments, including caring for elderly relatives and child care. It is perhaps indicative of why so many high-flying women say their careers never recover after they have children.

It is also worth pointing out that industries in which the pay gap is smaller between the sexes are also the industries in which women dominate the work force and pay is lower than the national average. 

Women working as nursing assistants and beauticians, for example, face a smaller pay gap at 6.5 per cent, but women comprise 82 per cent of the workforce, and the salary is more than 35 per cent lower the national average.

Labour's shadow minister for women and equalities Gloria de Piero told me last week of a women she had just met who had won a employment tribunal after suffering unequal pay. The woman had juggled credit card debt, baliff letters, sleepless nights and all because she had been ripped off with a lower wage because of her sex.

It hammers home the unfairness of unequal pay, which about simple justice, rather than men versus women. De Piero promised that a Labour government would make pay equality a priority.

She added: "Forty four years since Labour's Barbara Castle passed the Equal Pay Act and we're still talking about how we get equal pay. At whatever level, whether we work part time or full time, whether it's male dominated or a sector where women make up most of the workforce - women lose out. And it's getting worse under this Government. Progress on closing the gap has stalled under the Tories and Lib Dems meaning women are missing out on £170 extra a year."

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.


Show Hide image

What David Hockney has to tell us about football

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times