International Women's Day 2024: Addressing Gender Pay Inequality

Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, celebrates International Women’s Day  

On International Women’s Day, it’s important to celebrate the achievements of women across the world, but also to consider what action can be taken to create a society without gender inequality.  

We know that low pay is a gender issue. New analysis has found that almost 2.2 million women in the UK are earning less than the real Living Wage compared to almost 1.5 million men. Worryingly, both the proportion and number of women working in lower paid jobs has slightly increased from the year before. 

This means that of all jobs held by women, 15.4% are currently low paid, whereas 10.4% of all jobs held by men are low paid.  

Women are more likely than men to be in low paid work across every region in the UK, but in some areas the gap is bigger than others. The East Midlands has the highest gender discrepancy in low pay -with around 20% of low paid jobs held by women compared to 10% held by men, closely followed by Yorkshire and the Humber. 

Recent polling by the Living Wage Foundation also revealed an unsettling picture of the disproportionate impact of being locked in low paid jobs. Female workers are twice as likely to report having no money left over after they have paid for essentials and the impact appears to be getting worse - almost 6 in 10 female workers (58%) reported they were worse off than they were in the previous year compared to just over 4 in 10 male workers (43%), and more female workers also reported having increased their use of foodbanks. This all has a significant and detrimental impact on mental health with reported increases in levels of anxiety. 

But why are more women in lower paid work? 

Low pay is more prevalent in part-time work and women are more likely than men to be in part-time work – 1.4 million part-time low paid jobs are held by women, while 656,000 low paid jobs are held by men. 

Women also make up the bulk of historically low paying industries; they are over-represented in social care, hospitality, cleaning, health and education sectors.  

There are now over 14,000 employers across the UK who have signed up to pay the real Living Wage, which crucially includes regular contracted workers like cleaners and caterers – roles often occupied by women. Security of hours and shift notice also matters – particularly for those with caring responsibilities and it’s been heartening to see record numbers of employers signing up our Living Hours scheme over the past year which provide decent notice of shifts and minimum guaranteed contracts.   

That is why this International Women’s Day we are celebrating all those employers who are paying the real Living Wage and providing Living Hours to everyone who works for them. When it comes to addressing gender inequality one action employers can take is to join the Living Wage movement.