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Gender Pay Gap

Volume 455: debated on Thursday 18 January 2007

22. What steps the Government are taking to close the gender pay gap in the public and private sectors. (116356)

The Government action plan implementing the women and work commission’s recommendations includes measures ranging from the exemplar employer initiative to the forthcoming public sector duty on gender equality. I will be hosting an event with the CBI later this month to share best practice with both public and private sector employers.

According to last week’s report by the Equal Opportunities Commission, women are still painfully under-represented in so-called “power jobs” across the country. Thirty years on from the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, does the right hon. Lady agree that many of the largest institutions in both the public and private sectors need to make a renewed effort to remove the hidden barriers to women’s career advancement that distort the work place?

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. The gender pay gap has been closing over the past 10 years or so, but we need to make further progress. As part of the exemplar initiative, we work with private sector employers to overcome the barriers to promotion that women face and to open up part-time work opportunities, not just at the lower-paid end of the market, but in respect of higher-quality and higher-paid jobs. That initiative is a really important element in taking the matter forward.

How does the right hon. Lady explain the disturbing fact that the gender pay gap among part-time employees is higher in the public sector than in the private? What does she intend to do about it?

The hon. Gentleman is very well informed, but he must know that the total pay gap in the public sector is lower than in the private sector, partly because wage differentials are compressed. Local authorities, Government Departments and other public sector bodies are taking action on this matter. The gender duty to be introduced in April will require public sector organisations to take further steps towards closing the gender pay gap.