The gender pay gap refers to the variation in the mean hourly earnings of all women and men across a workforce. According to 2015 statistics, the median gender pay gap for the entire UK is 19.3%. These differences are largely associated with the variations between women and men in terms of their skillsets. Besides, rigidities in the labor market could also be blamed for the situation. This disparity is detrimental to the country’s economic growth and hence needs to be bridged. Moreover, closing the gap is necessary to ensure social justice for women as the pay inequality limits their choices and adversely impacts their lifetime earnings. Several legislative, collective, and voluntary strategies have been formulated to nurture an inclusive and gender-equal labor market. Elevation of the minimum wage floors, reinforcement of the legal and collective regulation, extension of the gender pay audits and action plans, development of progression chances in female-dominated job sectors, and facilitation of women’s retention in and return to work are some of the measures that have been taken in this direction . However, the enforcement of these policies in the UK is fraught with challenges, thereby rendering the closure of the gender pay gap a difficult task to accomplish.
Firstly, overcoming gender segregation legacies in the organization of work and in the division of domestic tasks and unpaid care is a problematic issue. While the unpaid work responsibilities of women curtail their access to employment opportunities and productive careers, the imbalanced pay further limits the possibilities for individual families to alter the domestic division of labor. Hence, the family setup fails to support the implementation of strategies for inclusive and gender-equal labor markets.
Secondly, legal rights to identical pay for work of equivalent value are limited and inefficacious. The comparators are restrained by males operating within the establishment in similar jobs. This aspect neglects the actuality of pervasive labor market segregation according to gender. Moreover, the initial effect of formalizing the informal jobs would be the widening of gender pay gap as the proportion of women in low-paid formal-segment occupations would rise.
The third challenge relates to the emergence of new forms of gender disparities. The movement of women from unpaid care work to formal employment may trigger new gender divisions within employment. Alternatively, women’s access to high-level jobs dominated by men may intensify gender segregations within the occupation.
Finally, the increasing imbalance and the reduced regulation and transparency curtail the growth of gender equality. Escalating earnings disparity increases the penalties faced by the people at the bottom level of the labor market, while the tendency towards raised individualized wages intensifies the scope for managerial judgment and discrimination. Enhanced subcontracting and outsourcing serve as leeway for clients and employers to dodge the regulation and shun their responsibilities related to employment standards, thus making the closure of the gender pay gap difficult.
In conclusion, it could be stated that the gender pay gap prevalent in the UK emanates from the differences in the skillsets between the genders and the labor market rigidities. This inequality affects the economy adversely and denies women access to social justice. Consequently, various legal, voluntary, and collective strategies have been formulated to close the gap and ensure an inclusive and gender-balanced labor market. However, eradicating this disparity remains to be a challenge owing to the inadequacies of the designated policies.