For women, unequal pay starts on day one

From the moment women enter the world of work, they are underpaid.

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Figures uncovered by the TUC today show that, despite recent claims to the contrary, young women are still paid less than their male peers. Young women need action now to close the gap – or they face a lifetime of unequal pay.

The TUC has found that – taking into account overtime and bonuses – an 18 year-old woman working full-time earns on average £1,395 a year less than her male peers.

The situation gets worse for apprentices. Research by the Young Women’s Trust found that young women apprentices earn 21 per cent less than their male counterparts, leaving them £2,000 a year worse off.

As a result, young women are more likely to face significant financial pressures. 39 per cent of young women we spoke to in our annual survey told us it was a real struggle to make their cash last until the end of the month. Nearly half said it would be a big financial problem if they had to replace a large item such as a fridge or washing machine this year. 25 per cent said they were in debt all the time – with many believing humans are more likely to have landed on Mars by the time they are 40 than they are to have paid off their debt!

At the current rate of progress, the gender pay gap will still exist in 2063 – nearly 100 years after the Equal Pay Act was introduced. Young women cannot keep waiting. The Young Women’s Trust has set out a number of measures the Government and businesses can introduce now to speed up the change women need.

Extending the new National Living Wage to apprentices and everyone under-25 would boost young women’s pay in particular and begin to close the gap. It would have a significant impact on female-dominated apprenticeships, like childcare and social care, which are paid the least.

In addition, more should be done to help women into the better-paid, male-dominated sectors like construction and engineering. This means taking positive action to increase women’s participation. Small changes like adapting the language in job adverts to appeal to young women, explicitly welcoming women applicants and removing formal academic entry requirements for apprenticeships can make a big difference.

Paying young women fairly is not only right, but would benefit businesses and the economy as a whole.

Now is the time for action. Without it, today’s young women will be retired before there is pay equality.


Carole Easton is Chief Executive of Young Women’s Trust. The Young Women’s Trust’s report on apprenticeships, Making Apprenticeships Work for Young Women, can be found here. 

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