The gender gap is widening

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Alors que la Grande-Bretagne était parvenue à réduire les inégalités salariales entre hommes et femmes, la crise de 2008 est allée contre cette tendance. Les écarts de revenus s’accroissent et les femmes demeurent les premières touchées par les emplois précaires de plus en plus nombreux. Si la lutte contre « le plafond de verre » a pu profiter aux femmes les plus qualifiées, il n’en n’est pas de même pour la majorité de celles qui font partie de la vie active.

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According to the annual figures released by the Office for National Statistics, the pay gap between men and women in Great Britain is at risk of worsening for the first time, chiefly because of the 2008 economic crisis. Progress on reducing the gender pay gap has slowed since a decade, and because of the recent austerity measures which have been implemented by the government, now the gender salary gap is widening. Indeed, the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, declared that women earn 14.9% less than men for the same job on average. But it is at risk of worsening again because the latest cuts in the public sector have pushed more women to work in the private sector, where the pay gap is at 20.4%, which is higher than in the public sector. Besides, that trend will unfortunately push more women to accept low-paid and part-time jobs.  And if women earn less than men for the same job today, there is also a gap between the earnings of professional and unskilled women, which is bigger than that between professional and unskilled men, according to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research. Thus, a graduated woman earns three times as much as an unskilled woman, whereas there is a difference of less than half between a professional and an unskilled man. Graduated women also suffer from disadvantaged access to qualified jobs despite their graduations, according to the 2012 survey of the Chartered Management Institute about gender salary.  Ann Francke, the chief executive officer of the CMI, declared indeed that women represent 57% of the professional workforce, and among them 40% are department heads and 25% are chief executives.

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These figures reveal that the female working-class does not enjoy the last few advances in reducing gender salary inequalities, especially in those times of crisis. In Dalia Ben-Galim opinion, the associate director of the IPPR, “while feminism has delivered for some professional women, other women have been left behind. Many of the advances for women at the top have masked inequality at the bottom”. And today the economic crisis is at risk of destroying the few advances in the struggle to break the glass ceiling. So, in order to change that negative trend, the civil society and associations show the government their growing disagreement. Thus, the Fawcett Society asked the British government, and more precisely the Minister for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson, to put pressure on private companies to force them to pay women as much as men. The working conditions also have to be adapted to women who raise children. In some firms, for example, women can enjoy a flexi-hours system: they combine teleworking and office hours.

Indeed, cuts in the public sectors are not the main issues: motherhood remains a huge factor of discrimination between men and women at the workplace. Indeed, it can be noticed that the gender salary gap increases at the age of 29, which is the average age of motherhood. So the government was asked to improve the childcare and parental leave systems. Indeed the level of the maternity leave is one of the highest for mothers and the lowest for fathers in Europe.

The British government should encourage fathers to take parental leaves, giving them rights to do it. A new system has also been scheduled for 2015, to give mothers 18 weeks automatic leave and fathers six weeks, but also seven months to be split between them. Campaigns launched by the government to fight against discrimination could be a solution too but can the government stop that trend? It is up to people to change their habits and get the idea that men also can take a leave to take care of their children. The employers have to participate in this effort to reduce gender inequalities. In times of crisis, to reduce the gender gap, the support of all the actors of British society is needed.

Zoélie DUPERIER et Larisse MARTIAS

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