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Gender pay gap narrows, but men still better off overall

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Halifax research reveals women’s earnings have risen more rapidly than men’s in the last five years, but men are still better off on average, with higher salaries and bigger pension pots.

The findings indicate that since the end of the economic downturn in the middle of 2009, women’s earnings have risen twice as fast as men’s on average.

Between 2009 and 2014, women’s salaries rose by 8 per cent, compared with a 4 per cent increase for men. Despite this, a considerable pay gap between the sexes still remains.

In 2014, males in full-time employment earned, on average, 32 per cent (£9,037) more than females. The average salary for a man in full time employment was £37,028, compared with £27,991 for a woman. Nonetheless, this gap has fallen over the past decade; 10 years ago, there was a 39 per cent gap, with the average salary for a man £30,183, compared with £21,750 for a woman.

Men are more likely to be in employment than women (78 per cent against 69 per cent), with more men in full-time employment (71 per cent against 53 per cent). Traditional gender roles seemingly remain for the majority of working families – over a third (37 per cent) of all working women are in part-time employment, compared with just one in 10 (9 per cent) men. Men are twice as likely to be self-employed as women (19 per cent against 10 per cent).

Both sexes were affected by the economic recession of 2008-09, when the number of men and women claiming unemployment benefits doubled.

Since October 2009 the number of men claiming unemployment benefits has fallen by 59 per cent, while female unemployment has declined by 37 per cent.  As a result, of those claiming unemployment benefits, women account for 36 per cent in April 2015, men 64 per cent.

Female savers with Halifax have an average balance equivalent to 45 per cent of their average annual gross earnings, whereas men have an average balance of just 26 per cent of their earnings. The typical savings balance held by female customers is £9,234, compared with £8,878 held by men – a difference of £356.

Men are also more likely to have no savings, with 43 per cent of single men having none compared with 34 per cent of single women. A slightly higher proportion of women (34 per cent) have an ISA than men (31 per cent). Men are more likely to have share related investments: stocks and shares (12 per cent against 9 per cent) and company share schemes (2 per cent against 1 per cent).

Despite women having more savings than men on average, more men are contributing to a pension (30 per cent vs 27 per cent). While a quarter (25 per cent) of both men and women participate in an employer-sponsored pension, fewer women have a personal pension (3 per cent against 6 per cent).

There has been an improvement in retirement savings figures over the last three years since the launch of automatic enrolment, but women continue to make less provision for their retirement than men, with 52 per cent of women currently saving adequately compared with 60 per cent of men.

On average, male pensioners have higher incomes than female pensioners. Single male pensioners had an average net income after housing costs of £209 per week in 2013-14, compared with £194 for single female pensioners – a difference of 8 per cent.

“In terms of pay, women have fared better than men since the economic recovery began,” said Giles Martin, head of Halifax Savings.

“While this has helped to reduce the economic and financial gap between the genders, there is still a substantial difference in average salaries when in full time employment.

“Despite the economic outlook brightening, there are lots of financial pressures facing families, and planning for the long term as well as the short term is key irrespective of gender or income.”

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