Young women caught in low-pay cycle

The proportion of young women working in low-paid jobs has trebled over the past 20 years, according to research by The Work Foundation and commissioned by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The gender jobs split research found that, between 1993 and 2011, the share of females between the ages of 16 and 24 in employed in low-paid work, such as office and hotel cleaning, has increased from 7% to 21%.

Over the same period, the proportion of young men working in low-paid jobs also rose, from 14% to 25%.

The research also found that young women are receiving a lower wage return on their qualifications. Despite being better qualified than young men, young women are seeing a lower wage premium for vocational qualifications.

The wage premium for women with Level-2 qualifications is 8%, compared to between 12% and 14% for men.

Katy Jones, researcher at The Work Foundation, said: “The gender gap starts early in working lives and is particularly striking in the lower half of the labour market. Young women tend to start work and remain in sectors with lower pay and fewer prospects.

“Intermediaries have an important role to play in cutting across the gender divide by encouraging young people to consider a wider range of ‘non-traditional’ occupations and apprenticeships.”

Frances O’Grady, general secretary at the TUC, added: “While there has been a welcome rise in the number of females gaining qualifications, many still find themselves trapped in low-skill, low-wage jobs.

“Unless we create better training and employment opportunities for young people, as well as challenging gender roles from the outset, the situation will not improve.

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