The gender pay gap has fallen below 10% for the first time since records began, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In April 2011, the gap between men and women’s median full-time hourly earnings, excluding overtime, stood at 9.1%, compared to 10.1% for the same period in 2010.
Men’s earnings rose by 0.8% over the year (from £13 an hour in 2010 to £13.11 in 2011), while women’s earnings rose by 1.9% (from £11.69 an hour in 2010 to £11.91 in 2011).
Sign up to our newsletters
Receive news and guidance on a range of HR issues direct to your inbox
The gender pay gap continued to widen for part-time workers, with women earning 5.6% more than men, up from 4.3% last year.
Other data in the Annual survey of hours and earnings showed that median gross weekly earnings for full-timers, at £501, were up by only 0.4% on the 2010 total of £499.
Public sector workers saw a rise of only 0.3% (from £554 in 2010 to £556 in 2011), while in the private sector the increase was 0.8% (£473 a week in 2010, £476 in 2011).
However, there was a widening in the gap between the highest and lowest-paid employees. Between 2010 and 2011, the hourly full-time earnings, excluding overtime, of those in the top decile grew by 1.8%, whereas those in the bottom decile saw an increase of only 0.1%.
Kay Carberry, a commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Forty years after the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, today’s figures are a step in the right direction. But we can’t be complacent, as the gap is still there.
“One way to help narrow it would be by removing the secrecy surrounding equal pay. It will help if employers take up the government’s guidance on measuring and reporting their gender pay gap.”
Andrew Sissons, a researcher from The Work Foundation, said that the closing gender pay gap could be because educational opportunities for both men and women have become more equal over time.†
“Educational attainment is much more balanced, and is slightly skewed in the favour of women. This may be resulting in more equal pay between men and women, especially among younger workers”, he said.†
Read more articles on the gender pay gap