Pay gap between men and women narrows, says ONS

Salary paperwork Pay for full-time employees is rising slowly, the figures show

The gender pay gap has narrowed as women have seen bigger pay increases in 2010, official figures show.

It shrunk to a 10.2% gap between men and women's median pay - the closest since figures started in 1997, the Office for National Statistics said.

A brake on wage rises for UK workers meant gross annual earnings for full-time employees saw annual rises of just 0.3% in April 2010, the ONS also said.

Pay rises were highest in London and lowest in Northern Ireland.

Taking a median average, gross annual earnings for full-time employees in April 2010 were up slightly compared with a year earlier to £25,900.

Pay gap

The ONS data shows that, in April, the UK workforce was made up of 12.7 million men and 12.3 million women.

However, work patterns were vastly different between the sexes. Some 88% of men worked full-time, but only 58% of women worked full-time.

Women tended to have lower hourly rates of pay in general, the figures show, but overall the gender pay gap has narrowed.

That is mainly because full-time men's median earnings were up 1.3% to £538 a week, but for women working full-time the figure rose by 3.1% to £439.

Using the median average, the gender pay difference narrowed from 12.2% to 10.2%, the biggest drop since the measure began in 1997.

The median average is calculated by ranking all workers in terms of pay and taking the person exactly in the middle as the average.

ONS statistician Mark Williams said: "This year's results continue the pattern we have seen in recent years of the gender pay gap tending to get narrower. In 1997, the gender pay gap in median earnings for full-timers was around 17% and it has now dropped to around 10%."

Adam Marshall, of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "The decrease in the gender pay gap in 2010 shows how hard businesses are working to deliver equality in the workplace, without the need for mandatory audits."

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, welcomed the figures but said the future was less certain for female employees.

"With hundreds of thousands of female public servants set to lose their jobs, there are real fears that women's income could start to fall as they struggle to find work in the private sector, where the gender pay gap is twice as high," he said.

"And while the full-time pay gap is falling, the part-time gender pay gap is still shockingly big."

Regional differences

The figures also hinted at a North/South divide in terms of average weekly earnings.

However, the dominance of London as the centre for the highest paid was more obvious.

Median gross weekly earnings stood at £499 across the whole of the UK. However, in London this stood at £642, followed by £524 in the south-east of England, £489 in the east of England, and £488 in Scotland.

At the other end of the scale, it was £441 in Northern Ireland, £442 in the north-east of England, and £451 in Wales.

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