Equality pay gap based on ‘lifestyle’ choices

Equality pay gap down to 'lifestyle choices' says report

The prominent pay gap between the sexes is down to ‘individual lifestyle’ choices, rather than discrimination by employers, according to a new report.

The choice of many mothers to start a family and put their children before their careers was the primary reason for unequal salaries after the age of 30. Up to that age, the discrepancy in salary was just 1% higher for men.

After 30, average hourly earnings are 17.2% higher for men than women.

The report by think tank The Institute of Economic Affairs clashes with equality campaigners and politicians who say the scandal is denying women the salaries that they deserve, as the research raised ‘serious doubts’ about the equal pay and anti-discrimination legislation, saying it could be futile.

Margaret Prosser, of the Government’s Equality Commission, argued last year that full-time female workers ‘are cheated of £330,000 over the course of their life’.

In contrast, lead researcher of the new report, Professor John Shackleton claimed the reality was the pay gap was virtually non-existent for employees under 30.

‘The widespread belief that the gender pay gap is a reflection of deep rooted discrimination by employers is ill-informed and an unhelpful contribution to the debate,’ said the report.

‘The pay gap is falling but is also a reflection of individuals’ lifestyle preferences. Government can’t regulate or legislate these away – and shouldn’t try to.’

In response Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress commented: ‘This report has created a fiction from Government statistics and has obviously ignored the tens of thousands of women every year who come to their union for help, having been discriminated against by their employer at work.’

She added: ‘Progress on closing the pay gap has slowed to a snail’s pace – falling by just 0.3% last year. Decisive action – including more family-friendly working and mandatory pay transparency – is needed to end this injustice.’

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