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Equal Pay

Volume 593: debated on Thursday 26 February 2015

The gender pay gap has fallen to its lowest level ever and has been entirely eliminated among full-time workers under the age of 40, but our goal must be to eliminate it entirely. We are tackling systemic pay inequalities through a range of measures: the Your Life initiative to get more girls into science, technology, engineering and maths; improved child care; extending flexible working; and introducing shared parental leave.

Forty four years after Labour’s Equal Pay Act 1970, sadly women earn on average 81p for every £1 that men earn. Tomorrow, my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) has a Bill providing for transparency in larger companies. Will the Government support it?

The Government’s position is not to support that particular Bill, but we are encouraging much more transparency through the Think, Act, Report initiative, to which more than 270 employers, covering 2.5 million employees, have signed up. Nearly half of them have done an equal pay audit in the last year and two thirds are publishing more information on gender equality. I agree that this is a hugely important issue on which we need to make more progress, and we are committed to doing so.

Which employment sector has the greatest gender pay gap, which has the least and what is the Minister doing to get representatives of the one to talk to the other?

That is a fantastic question, and I shall write to the hon. Gentleman with the specific statistics for different sectors. Sectoral differences are a significant part of the gender pay gap. We know that occupational segregation—the congregation of women in much lower paying sectors—is a significant driver of about one third of the pay gap, which is why the initiatives to get more girls studying STEM subjects are so important.

Will the Minister cheer on Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech, in which she called for equal pay in the arts, particularly in the film industry?

If so—I see that both Ministers are nodding—what will Ministers do to ensure pay equality in the British film industry?

I wholeheartedly endorse the speech by Patricia Arquette—I have already welcomed it on Twitter because I think it needed to be brought to a wider audience. In the UK arts industry, as in all industries, it is important that there be greater transparency and support for women in the workplace in terms of promotion and seniority. That is what we will continue to promote.

I am sure that like me my hon. Friend is pleased that the Work programme is helping the long-term unemployed, both men and women, back into work. Will she confirm that the number of long-term unemployed people has fallen to its lowest in five years and that the claimant count in my constituency has fallen by 42%?

The hon. Gentleman has got mixed up: the previous question was about unemployment, but this one is about equal pay, so I shall take his question as rhetorical. We are grateful to him for getting his observations on the record.