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Gender pay gap halves for millennials but motherhood halts progress

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Written by: Paloma Kubiak
04/01/2017
The gender pay gap for millennials in their 20s has halved in a generation to just 5%, but it widens as women start having children, according to a study. 

The Resolution Foundation tracked the typical hourly pay of different generations of women over the course of their careers, compared to that of their male counterparts.

While it found progress had been made for millennials, it said because women start having children in their 30s and 40s and take time out altogether they lose out on the ‘labour market experience’.

It said training, progression and promotion are much harder to come by with part time work which many women opt for after having children.

And the increase in the gender pay gap isn’t just a short-term phenomenon linked to childbirth as it continues for decades. “This is where the lifetime earnings penalty that women continue to face really starts to build,” the report noted.

The analysis found that the generational progress on gender pay shows signs of stalling. The pay gap at age 30 was 21% for baby boomers, then halved to 10% for women in generation X. For millennials aged 30 it’s 9%.

Laura Gardiner, author of the Resolution Foundation’s report, said: “Young women today know that we have rights and opportunities that our grandmothers would envy, and that like men in our generation we benefit from the living standards improvements, technologies and global connectedness that continued growth and human progress have brought.

“But we also know from the statistics that we’re likely to spend more of our (longer) lives than women in previous generations reliant on our own earnings alone, and that reproductive biology remains what it always was despite everything technology has done. So while we should celebrate generational gender pay progress, a continued focus on gender differences at all stages of careers – and in particular action to address the sharp and long-lasting earnings penalty post-childbirth – remains a key challenge of our times.”

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