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Motherhood penalty reverses gender equality in UK: report


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A new report has highlighted a concerning reversal in gender equality progress in the UK, attributing it to the “motherhood penalty” and inadequate support for women going through menopause.

Global accounting firm PwC’s annual Women in Work Index revealed a significant widening of the gender pay gap in Britain, causing the country to drop from 13th to 17th place among organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD) nations. The gap expanded from 14.3 per cent to 14.5 per cent in 2022, surpassing the global average of 13.5 per cent.

The “motherhood penalty” is identified as a major contributor to this setback, with women experiencing a 5.2 per cent pay gap at the beginning of their careers, which balloons to nearly 13 per cent over time due to the impact of maternity leave on career progression and lifetime earnings.

Moreover, women in Britain face disproportionate childcare responsibilities, hindering their professional advancement while men often pursue more demanding and higher-paying roles.

According to the report, on average, for every £1 earned by a man in the UK, a woman earns 90p despite having a similar personal and professional background.

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PwC noted that women in their mid-40s to mid-60s also encounter challenges due to a lack of support during menopause.

A survey of 2,000 women revealed that a quarter felt the menopause had adversely affected their career advancement, echoing findings from the Fawcett Society, which reports that nearly half of women experience work-related difficulties due to menopause symptoms.

“Over the last decade, the UK has consistently lagged behind the OECD on the gender pay gap, and at the current rate of progress it will take nearly half a century to close [it],” said Tara Shrestha Carney, an economist at PwC UK.

In the regional index for achieving gender equality at work, Scotland ranks first, followed by the South West and the East of England.

Scotland’s performance was fueled by improvements across various indicators. For instance, there was an increase in the female labour force participation rate from 73.2 per cent in 2021 to 74.9 per cent in 2022.

Also, Scotland recorded the smallest gap in participation rates between men and women across the UK, standing at 4.4 per cent.

PwC said that closing the gender pay gap would not only benefit women but could also bolster the economy, with a five per cent increase in female workforce participation potentially leading to a £125 billion GDP boost.

The UK’s high proportion of women working part-time, attributed to costly childcare, is highlighted as a key factor contributing to gender inequality.

Luxembourg, Iceland, and Slovenia lead PwC’s Women in Work Index.



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