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New drive for WAVE of change on gender pay gap in Wales

4 March 2014

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Business people, academics, trade unionists and other key influencers will come together in Swansea today (March 4th 2014) to start a dialogue they hope will eventually change the ingrained working patterns that cause the continuing gender pay gap in Wales.

The gathering, called by the EU-backed WAVE partnership – Women Adding Value to the Economy - also marked the release of a major new report revealing the full extent of gender segregated working in Wales, a factor recognised to be one of the major contributors to unequal earnings.

The study was carried out by researchers at Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences who, along with the University of South Wales and the training body, the Women’s Workshop Project @ BAWSO Ltd, form the WAVE partnership, which was set up to tackle the underlying causes of the pay gap.

Their research showed that, of 353 identified occupations, 267 are dominated by one sex or the other; with most of the higher-paid roles dominated by men and a high proportion of the feminised occupations characterised by low pay and part-time working. Four out of five workers in Wales are in gender-segregated occupations.

Among the starkest examples of gender segregation at work was in the ‘skilled trades’ where 91% of jobs are held by men. Of the 54 occupations under this heading, only seven were found to be ‘gender balanced’ and only three were female dominated. These were tailoring, dressmaking and floral arranging. By contrast women constitute only 1% of skilled construction workers.

According to the new report ‘Working Patterns in Wales,’ only a fifth of workers in Wales are in gender-balanced occupations.

Other research from WAVE showed that female entrepreneurs in Wales also earn less than their male counterparts, due to the sectors they tend to choose and the lower prices they tend to charge for their goods and services.

Today’s event at Swansea’s Waterfront Museum launched a landmark ‘National Conversation’ entitled ‘Let’s Talk about Pay.’ This is designed to expose the underlying causes of the gender pay gap and engage employers, employees and policymakers in discussions on how to bring about change in Wales’ ‘heavily-gendered’ work patterns.

The National Conversation is intended to drive action in Wales to tackle a problem which is blamed for poverty in many families and which acts as a drain on the economy due to under-use of women’s skills and potential.

The ‘Conversation’ will be driven by a series of events involving a wide range of stakeholders across Wales, which is intended to highlight the problem and focus on changes needed in the structure of both employment and self-employment.

Author of the Working Patterns report, Dr Alison Parken Senior Research Fellow at the School of Social Sciences said: “Even though we have had laws for over 40 years guaranteeing equal pay for the same work, we still have a gender pay disparity because men and women do very different work on very different contracts. This problem won’t go away until we tackle the issue of gender segregation and remove the limits this places on the work women do.”

Dr Parken also unveiled details of a new online ‘Equal Pay Barometer,’ prepared by the research team which will allow employees and employers in Wales to compare pay rates across 300 different occupations. This is designed in part to encourage women to consider working in better paying occupations or to seek improvements in their current conditions.

Details on participating in the National Conversation on Equal Pay at: www.wavewales.co.uk

Notes on WAVE

Women Adding Value to the Economy (WAVE) has been created to address workplace and labour market practices, specifically gender earning disparities in employment and self-employment. The aim of the WAVE project is to contribute to tackling the causes of gender pay gaps in Wales. Its aim is to achieve this through targeted activities, working with employers, employees and self-employed women. WAVE is funded by the Convergence European Social Fund through the Welsh Government.

The three main strands of the WAVE project are:

Strand 1 Cardiff University will develop tools and techniques based on research with employers to challenge gender-based inequalities in organisations. With particular attention to pay inequalities, the aim being to replace them with a more equitable system.

Strand 2 The Women’s Workshop Project @ BAWSO Ltd aims to empower and upskill women to progress in and move into non-traditional sectors and technical career paths, to access higher valued and better paid areas of work.

Strand 3 The University of South Wales is the lead partner in WAVE and also delivers Strand 3 activities which aims to empower and to up-skill women who are either already in, or aiming towards self-employment; encouraging and enabling them to achieve higher earnings.

Headline figures from the Working Patterns in Wales report:

  • Four out of five Welsh workers are in gender-segregated occupations
  • Of the 353 occupations studied, 267 are gender-segregated
  • Sixty-four per-cent of full-time jobs are held by men
  • Eighty per-cent of part-time jobs are held by women
  • Ninety per-cent of men work full-time and 10% part-time
  • Fifty-four per cent of women work full-time and 43% part-time
  • Ninety-one per-cent of jobs in the Skilled Trades are held by men
  • Only three skilled trade occupations out of a total of 56 are dominated by women
  • Eighty-four per-cent of Wales’ professional women are concentrated in education, health, social work and public administration.
  • At least 40% of work in feminized occupations is contracted on a part-time basis
  • The hourly pay gap between full-time male workers and part-time female is 34%

Analysis based on pooled and weighted data from the ONS: Annual Population Survey.