The gender pay gap has ‘disappeared’ for young women, a Conservative minister has declared, as new figures showed record employment in the UK.
Lord Freud, Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, told the House of Lords that higher wages for some female workers was a ‘generational thing’ and expressed the hope that it would continue.
The former businessman also hailed the latest job statistics, which showed the number of jobless fell by 110,000 and the employment rate reaches new record high of 73.9%.
The average pay gap between men and women for full time workers now stands at 9.4% in April 2015, compared with 9.6% in 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics.
While that was the narrowest difference since the figures were first published in 1997, the World Economic Forum believes it will take another 118 years - or until 2133 - until the global pay gap between men and women is finally closed.
And new report by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) said that the gender pay gap in full-time management and professional roles increases as women age, from 6 per cent for 26 to 35-year-olds, to 20 per cent for 36 to 45-year-olds.
But speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Freud said: “Some of the statistics in this area are very interesting in that the younger generations actually the pay gap has disappeared.
“Which is a generational thing and we will wait to see whether that goes on through as that generation moves ahead.”
The minister didn’t specify which statistics he was relying on, but one analysis this autumn reported that women in their 20s have reversed the gender pay gap, while stressing their earning power is still overtaken by men later in life.
Figures compiled by the Press Association have shown that between the ages of 22 and 29, a woman will typically earn £1,111 more per annum than her male counterparts. Using data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), PA analysed the comparative earnings of men and women between 2006 and 2013.
The situation is radically different for workers in their 30s. A man turning 30 in 2006 would have brought in on average £8,775 more than a woman of the same age.
The Government believes that new statistics show that the gender pay gap has been virtually eliminated for women under 40 and has decreased for all women over 40 in full-time employment.
The latest ONS statistics on the gender pay gap
Lord Freud added today: “I think the most dramatic fact in female employment in this country is that it now stands at the rate of 69%. That rate is higher than the rate in the US for both men and women. And that shows how far we have gone with female employment.”
Women who return to work after taking maternity leave endure lower pay and fewer promotions for decades, today's CMI study showed.
Its report found that a ‘motherhood penalty’ means that the pay gap for women in management roles over the age of 40 stands at 35 per cent – more than 10 per cent higher than the average wages chasm between the sexes.
Lord Freud also declared today that the overall figures for young people were “one of the most dramatic” developments in recent years. “Workless youngsters not in education are now down at a million below what it was in 1997, now at a low of 14.2%.”
The Office for National Statistics found that more that half a million more people were in work compared to this time last year and the youth employment rate was now the highest in a decade.