The gender pay gap – what is it and what affects it?

27 October 2016

27 October 2016

A report by the Office for National Statistics examines data published in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) which provides the most up-to-date information on the pay gap between men and women.

The gender pay gap for full-time employees in 2016 was 9.4%.

This means average pay for full-time female employees was 9.4% lower than for full-time male employees. This gap is down from 17.4% in 1997.

The gap for all employees (full-time and part-time) has reduced from 19.3% in 2015 to 18.1% in 2016. This gap is down from 27.5% in 1997.

Reasons for the gap

The main factors explaining why women tend to earn less than men are:

  • part-time work
  • type of occupation
  • having and caring for children

Part-time workers – both men and women – earn less, on average, per hour than their full-time counterparts.

A much higher proportion of women work part-time – 41%, compared with only 12% of men. This is why the gap for all employees – full-time and part-time together – is higher than for full-time employees

Interestingly, the gender pay gap for part-time employees alone was minus 6.0% in 2016. This means female part-time employees earned 6.0% more than male part-time employees.


Another factor that affects the gender pay gap is that women tend to work in occupations which offer lower salaries. The size of the gender pay gap also varies between occupations.

Having and caring for children

When looking at the differences in pay by age group for full-time employees, the gap is relatively small up to and including those aged 30 to 39.

From 40 upwards, the gap is much wider. This is likely to be connected to women taking time out of the labour market to have children.

Taking full-time and part-time employees together, for all age groups from 22 to 29 upwards, the gap is wider than for full-time employees alone. This indicates that, in these age groups, more women are working part-time in jobs that tend to be lower paid.

You can read the full report on the ONS website.  

The CIPP offers training courses on gender pay gap reporting.   More information is available on the CIPP website