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Young Female Apprentices Earn £2,000 Less A Year Than Men

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Today is Equal Pay Day and, for the rest of the year, women in the UK will effectively be working for free thanks to the gender pay gap. The full-time pay gap is nearly 14% and, at the current rate, today's young women will be retired before equal pay becomes a reality.

For young women apprentices, the gap is even wider. Young Women's Trust statistics show that they earn 21% less than their male peers, leaving them £2,000 a year worse off. Their Equal Pay Day was two weeks ago: on 28 October.

If the apprentice pay gap closes at the same rate as the full-time pay gap (by 0.2% each year), a young woman apprentice should not expect to be paid the same as a man until at least the year 2121 - more than 150 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970.

And it is not just as apprentices or while they are young that women will earn less. They are much more likely than men to get stuck on low wages or be offered insecure and unpredictable contracts.

Young women need action now to avoid a lifetime of inequality. This starts with properly valuing the work women do. One of the reasons why young women are paid less to undertake apprenticeships is that the sectors they tend to work in, such as administration, health care and retail, are likely to be poorly paid. It cannot be right that those who do such important jobs, caring for the ones we love, are paid the least.

We need positive action too to help women into male-dominated sectors, which pay more. Less than two per cent of construction apprentices are women and less than four per cent of engineering apprentices. Even in IT & telecoms the figure only rises to 12%.

Without action to encourage more young women into science and engineering apprenticeships, new government funding in these areas will only mean more jobs for the boys and could lead to an increase in the gender pay gap. It also makes no sense for businesses or the wider economy to be missing out on women's talents.

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. Increasing the number of part-time and flexible apprenticeships will help to boost women's participation by allowing them to train alongside caring responsibilities.

Young women also need better advice and support during their apprenticeships. Women in male-dominated areas say they feel set up to fail because of a lack of a lack of support and many are unable to complete their apprenticeships as a result. Clamping down on workplace sexism and providing mentors would help women to feel like they belong.

There is a very long way to go to close the gender pay gap. But solutions are available and women have been waiting long enough.

It's time for government and businesses to take action.

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