IDR | 20 May 2019

Weekly earnings figures outline pay divide for men and women

There are real differences in the distribution of earnings between men and women. These differences are most stark when looking at the whole economy and private sector but are also present to a lesser degree in the public sector.

The graph above details the distribution of weekly earnings across the whole economy. The greatest concentration of individuals occurs in the left-hand region of the graph. This graph shows clearly that there are many more low-paid people in the economy than there are highly-paid people. This distribution of earnings creates a ski-slope shape.

More women than men are represented in the lower half of the graph, which indicates that women are more likely to be employed in low-paying jobs than men. Women earn less per hour, on average, than men in the nine major occupation groups as defined by the Office for National Statistics. Viewing the job title labels attached to the data in the charts allows us to see how women’s earnings consistently fall behind those for men in the same jobs. The so-called five C’s – cleaning, catering, caring, cashiering and clerical jobs – are predominantly populated by women and these roles tend to be comparatively low-paid. This may be because many of these roles involve work that women perform unpaid in other spheres. The fact that women continue to do the greatest share of care-giving in the private sphere also contributes to lower lifetime earnings, with time out for maternity in particular a key factor here.

At the higher end of the earnings distribution it is clear that there are many more men than women. This much greater representation of men in high-paying positions is partly a product of the ‘glass ceiling’ effect, whereby women are prevented from progressing into managerial positions. Despite the lowest difference in the number of men and women in employment since records began, men continue to hold a majority of the highest-paying jobs.

The graphs for each of the public and private sectors present very different configurations. The private sector graph is similar to that for the whole economy due to most employment in the economy being in private sector organisations. The private sector graph is more heavily skewed towards the left-hand, lower-paid side, around the levels of the National Living Wage (NLW) and the Voluntary Living Wage (VLW), and falls away to a lesser population on the right-hand, higher-paying side.

In contrast, the public sector graph shows a more evenly distributed spectrum of earnings due to the higher proportion of professional degree-level jobs such as nurses and teachers, which have comparatively higher earnings. In addition, women are extremely well-represented in these roles. The public sector contains a higher proportion of roles with gross weekly earnings close to the median weekly wage. The public sector also exhibits more proximity in the respective earnings of men and women than the private sector.

A fundamental difference in the distribution of earnings between the public and private sectors is the range. The highest statistically valid weekly earnings figure for the public sector is £1,160 per week (£60,482 per annum). This is in contrast with the private sector distribution, which shows average earnings (for men) of up to £6,000 per week, which is equivalent to a £312,840 annual salary. We have capped the private sector graph at £1,500 gross pay per week as after that point in the data set the coefficient of variation (CV) dips below the 20% mark for statistical robustness and therefore has been suppressed from publication on quality grounds.  The public sector graph is  capped at £1,000 for the same reason. We have also discounted any earnings below £260 per week since this amount is the interval below the statutory minimum of £7.83 per hour for over 25s working a 35-hour week.

About the data:

The graphs show where earnings for a number of familiar jobs occur on the earnings scale. We have indicated male and female earnings for these roles separately in each case. The National Living Wage (NLW) and the Voluntary Living Wage (VLW) are also shown.

The graphs use £10 intervals to show the distribution of weekly earnings for men and women across the whole economy, and in the private and public sectors. When we highlight weekly earnings amounts for particular jobs, eg £310 a week, then the amount in question is referring to the £10 gap or interval between £299 and £310. The data is taken from the Government’s Annual Survey for Hours and Earnings (ASHE), as carried out in April 2017. ASHE is based on a 1% sample of jobs taken from HM Revenue and Customs' PAYE records.