This calculation is based on a comparison of average hourly rates of pay for full time employees, & so is, it can be argued, the ’purest’ measure of difference which is routinely available from the governments Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE)
As I was listening to a piece about this on the radio, where the presenter was jokily talking about women going on strike until after Christmas, I fell to wondering what would happen if, instead of calling out all women in solidarity, including those who earn above the average rate, the strike call went out only to those full time workers, regardless of gender, who earn below the average woman’s rate? Might we get a surprise & find that the men outnumbered the women?
Well I failed in my attempt to find the necessary figures on the National Statistics website & had to make do just with medians & means (2007 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings First Release (Pdf))
It could be quite a close run thing
I was intrigued to see the emphasis on using the median rather than the arithmetic mean in most of this press release - understandable because this is one of those examples where average really does not mean most
On the governments preferred measure based on the median, the gender pay gap is ‘only’ 12.6%, not 17.2%
What is really interesting however is that, for men, the median is only about 80% of their mean, while for women it is 86%
Average pay for men is pulled up by the vast sums paid to relatively small numbers of very high earning men, women are more equal because so few of them are really big earners
Whichever measure is used, women’s earnings have risen more than men’s since 1997 – 51% on the median or 55% on the mean
For men the median rose by a relatively measly 42%. Their average however rose by all of 48% - yet another measure of how inequality has been increasing
The conclusion from all of this?
By calling for women to be paid more equally with men, we are also calling for them to be paid less equally with each other