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Coronavirus shows working women are underpaid

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) says the pandemic shows that women are still underpaid and undervalued 50 years on from the Equal Pay Act.

TUC analysis shows that women are much more likely than men to be key workers and, when they are, are much more likely to be on low pay.

Of an estimated 9.8 million key workers, nearly two-thirds are women; and 2.6 million women key workers earn less than £10 an hour.

According to the TUC, 38% of key workers earn less than £10 per hour, compared to 31% of non-key workers. It found 41% of female key workers were paid less than £10 per hour, compared to 32% of male key workers.

Frances O’Grady,  TUC General, says: “50 years after brave women won the legal right to equal pay, coronavirus has confirmed that pay inequality is still rife in Britain today. Working women have led the fight against coronavirus, but millions of them are stuck in low paid and insecure jobs. That is not right.

“As we emerge from this crisis, we need a reckoning on how we value and reward women’s work. Without proper change it will take decades to close the gender pay gap.”

The Equal Pay Act of 1970 ruled that employers had to treat men and women who were doing the same job equally in their pay and conditions.

Separate TUC analysis of official data shows that at current rates of progress it will take around 50 years (until 2067) to achieve pay parity between men and women.

Analysis by Royal London earlier this week found that the number of female breadwinners in the UK is gradually rising – but the coronavirus crisis could knock this trend off course.

Almost a quarter of women earn more than their male partner, up from a fifth 16 years ago, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.

Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, says: “The coronavirus crisis has shone the light on gender pay inequality. More women than men are in low paid jobs and this is starkly highlighted by the gender split between female and male key workers. Low pay and job insecurity help fuel not only the gender pay gap but also the pension gap.

“We’re also seeing more women furloughed than men, partly because of the sectors they work in. And women are taking on a greater share of childcare responsibilities. These factors are likely to reverse the recent gains in closing the gender pay gap, exacerbating the pensions gap. A pay gap and lower pension incomes mean women suffer a double blow.”

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