IEA: “Equal Pay Day” perpetuates false narratives around women in work

Commenting on the Fawcett Society’s Equal Pay Day campaign (Thursday, 18th December), Annabel Denham, Director of Communications at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“It’s that time of the year again, where the Fawcett Society makes the baseless assertion that women are working ‘for free’ until the end of December.

“The group badly conflates the gender pay gap  – which is a matter of statistical averages, which can be calculated in a variety of ways – with the issue of equal pay for equal work, which has been mandated by law in the UK since 1970.

“The data used to support the claim is limited, and certainly cannot be viewed as a measurement of equal pay. Figures from the Office for National Statistics fail to take into account job, age, education or background of male and female workers. This means that Fawcett are comparing the salaries of seasoned CEOs with entry-level employees, and claiming sexism is to blame for pay differentials.

“In any case, it’s not the individual companies’ pay gaps that drives this aggregate figure. If all the reporting companies had a zero GPG, there would still probably be a sizeable economy-wide gap. Women would be in different companies – ones that aren’t required to publish this data – doing different jobs. Two thirds of public sector workers are female.  

“Nonetheless, groups like Fawcett and the TUC are now calling for mandatory action plans from employers to tackle the gender pay gap in the workforce. Not only would this place a pointless regulatory burden on businesses, but it may lead to employers trying to ‘game’ the situation by, for example, outsourcing unskilled work mainly done by females, or by hiring fewer women into junior roles to achieve the closest calculation to a 0 per cent pay gap. This would, clearly, hurt those it is designed to help. 

“Fanfare around the campaign paints women as victims of workplace discrimination, destined never to know equal pay in their working lives. It does girls and young women no favours to infer that, no matter how hard they work or talented they may be, they will never be as successful as men. Far better to focus on the huge strides women have taken in the past few decades – unless, of course, you’re in the business of identifying, or imagining, problems.”

ENDSNotes to editors

Contact: Emily Carver, Head of Media, 07715 942 731Annabel Denham is available for interview all day Thursday.

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