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Gender Pay Gap

Volume 597: debated on Thursday 2 July 2015

As we discussed in the House only yesterday, the gender pay gap has fallen to its lowest level ever, at 19.1%, and has been virtually eliminated among full-time workers under the age of 40. We remain determined to eliminate the gender pay gap for all, which is why we will require larger employers to publish gender pay information. We will publish an initial consultation on that soon, with a view to making regulations as soon as we can.

We heard the views of many Members in an important debate yesterday. In my constituency, the gender pay gap is about 29.8%, which is above the national average. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must all do more to highlight the importance of tackling the gap?

I entirely agree that it is crucial that we continue to raise awareness of the gender pay gap among employers and employees. I am sure that as the new champion for her constituency, my hon. Friend will do that. One way is to challenge gender stereotypes in schools through the Opening Doors project, which I know Cams Hill school in her constituency is participating in.

The gap is even larger when taken with ethnicity, particularly for Bangladeshi, Pakistani and African-origin women. How will the Minister address that?

The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point. We need to inspire young people about career options and subject choices when they are at school, regardless of their gender or ethnicity. Often, women end up in careers in the five c’s—cleaning, catering, clerical, cashiering and caring—for which salaries tend to be lower. As we discussed yesterday, there are many complex reasons for the gender pay gap, and we will do all we can to tackle them.

28. As my right hon. Friend has said, the group of women who endure the largest gap in pay by comparison with their male peers is those over the age of 40. What is she doing specifically to address that? Many of those women are highly talented and highly skilled, but we as a country are not getting the best out of them. (900725)

We are going to take forward Baroness Altmann’s recommendations on older workers, including workplace training irrespective of age, and stamping out age discrimination in the recruitment process. My right hon. Friend will be aware, as she was the Minister when it was set up, that the Women’s Business Council has a specific strand of work on older workers staying on in work. There are also the pilots for carers that I mentioned yesterday.

Does the Minister agree that in places where the living wage is implemented, the main beneficiaries are often women? What steps is she taking to incentivise companies to pay the living wage?

The hon. Lady raises an important point. The Government have made it clear that we would like employers to consider paying the living wage, but it has to be the right decision for them. We have made moves to increase the minimum wage, and we have increased the level at which people start to pay income tax, which has disproportionately affected women.

32. In a letter from the Minister’s Department in March, I was informed that the greatest gender pay gap could be found in the finance and insurance sectors, in which it is 35.2%. Is that a problem? If so, what specifically is she doing about it with those sectors? (900729)

My hon. Friend raised this issue in one of the last Women and Equalities questions sessions of the last Parliament. He is right that the full-time gender pay gap in financial and insurance activities is 35.2%. I refer him to the answer that I gave earlier about the need to inspire young people and make sure that girls in particular do not count themselves out of particular careers, or out of specific subject choices at school so that they cannot go into those careers later on.

The gender pay gap in Coventry increased to 16.2% in 2014, up from 15% the previous year. What targeted action are the Government taking to address the issue in areas such as mine where the gender pay gap has widened rather than narrowed in recent years?

The figure that the hon. Lady gives is thankfully smaller than the overall United Kingdom figure, but that does not mean it is acceptable. I am sure she will work with employers in her constituency when the regulations are published and brought into force to ensure that employers work hard on gender pay transparency and take specific steps to tackle the gap.