Discrimination not to blame for gender pay gap

Employer discrimination is not the cause for the gender pay gap, according to new research by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) released today.

Should we mind the gap? raises doubts over the supposed benefits of equal pay and anti-discrimination legislation, arguing that it may be counter productive.

This research comes a day after income insurance provider Unum released figures showing that the average full time earnings for a man (£30,035) are 32% higher than those for a woman (£22,773), indicating that gender remains a driving factor in pay inequality.

However, the findings from the IEA argue that although gaps in pay do exist, they are principally explained by differences in working conditions and the values, preferences and choices of individual men and women and therefore beyond the reach of government.

The report states that men tend to work longer hours and more overtime, seeking higher pay and success while women seek job satisfaction. Of the top 25 ideal employers for women, 12 were in the relatively low-paid public or voluntary sector, against only four for men.

For the 22-29 year old men and women, the median full-time gap is now less than 1%, whilst women’s part-time earnings are now higher than their male counterparts, the research showed.

Professor Shackleton, who wrote the report, said: “The widespread belief that the gender pay gap is a reflection of deep rooted discrimination by employers is ill-informed and an unhelpful contribution to the debate. The pay gap is falling but is also a reflection of individuals’ lifestyle preferences. Government can’t regulate or legislate these away – and shouldn’t try to.”