The employment rate of women now in work has reached 67.2%, the highest since records began. Over 14 million women are now in employment, according to the figures published by the Office for National Statistics.
The figures show 1.3 million more people are now in jobs compared with 2010 and over a million more of these jobs are full-time. The growth in overall employment also continued with the number of people currently working increasing 193,000 on the quarter.
Employment Minister Esther McVey said, “With employment continuing to increase, it’s clear that the government’s long-term plan to build a stronger, more secure economy is helping businesses create jobs and get people into work. Record numbers of women are in work and youth unemployment continues to fall, which means more people have the security of a regular wage and can plan for their future.”
The median weekly earnings for men rose from £502 to £508 over the last year, but for women they fell from £413 to £411. This means the gender pay gap has now risen from £89 to £97 pounds a week. Much of the rise in employment amongst women was down to more declaring themselves self-employed.
Looking at the skill of the workforce one in three female gradates has a degree in health-related studies or education, compared with only one in eleven male gradates. Only one in five female gradates has a degree in business and finance, sciences or engineering, despite almost half of graduate degrees being in these subjects.
It is evident that in terms of pay women have some challenges left, in the financial sector, women working fulltime earn 55% less annual average gross salary than their male colleagues. An average women working full-time from the age of 18-59 would be deprived £361,000 in gross earnings over her working life compared to an equivalent male. Also, over the last decade, 20% more is how much a male graduate could expect to earn on average, than a female graduate. The gap is wider for non-degree holders at 23%.
According to a report by McKinsey, companies across all sectors with most women on their boards of directors significantly and consistently outperform those with no female representation, by 41% in terms of return on equity and by 56% in terms of operating results. It was also noted that if women set up businesses at the same rate as men, there would be an extra 150,000 start-ups in the UK each year.
The number of people claiming jobless benefits fell by 27,600 between December and January, to 1.22 million. Between January 2013 and January 2014, the number of jobseeker’s allowance claimants fell by 327,600, in the largest annual fall since March 1998.
A breakdown of the data showed that workers in the manufacturing sector, and in wholesaling, retailing, hotels and restaurants, have already seen a rise in real wages, with earnings growth above the 1.9% inflation rate in those industries.
Rachel Reeves, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, welcomed the overall fall in unemployment, nevertheless highlighting the fact that more than 900,000 young people were still unemployed and more than 250,000 young people had been unemployed for over a year. However, there were 917,000 unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds in the latest quarter, down by 48,000 on the previous three months.
Another breakdown of the figures showed that one in 10 new jobs created last year went to people born in Romania and Bulgaria, even before work restrictions were lifted. The number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK rose by 40 per cent in 12 months to December 2013
The slight increase in the jobless rate took pressure off Bank of England policymakers to consider an interest rate rise this year after a fall in the annual rate of inflation to 1.9% in December, from 2% in November.
What do you believe are the reasons why women earn a 20%-23% lower salary on average than men?