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The gender earnings gap: evidence from the UK

  • Susan Harkness
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    Rising female labour-force participation has been one of the most striking changes to have occurred in industrialised countries’ labour markets over recent decades. In the UK between 1973 and 1993, female labour-force participation rose from 57 per cent to 68 per cent for women aged 16 to 64.2 Women now account for half of all employees and 36 per cent of those working full-time (compared with 38 per cent and 30 per cent respectively in 1971).3 Yet, although women have been the main beneficiaries from the creation of new jobs, they have still not gained earnings parity with men. For women working full-time,however, the pay gap has been closing, and the New Earnings Survey reports a rise in the ratio of median hourly pay of full-time women to men from 65 per cent in 1970 to 73 per cent in 1976 and a more gradual increase thereafter to 80 per cent in 1994. In contrast, the relative earnings position of women working part-time has changed little for over two decades. Our period of study (the mid-1970s to the early 1990s) saw significant shifts in the composition of female employment that are potentially important in explaining changes in the gender gap. First, there has been a notable increase in the average age of full-time working women which has primarily resulted from increased employment amongst women of child-bearing age. This has shifted the

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    Article provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its journal Fiscal Studies.

    Volume (Year): 17 (1996)
    Issue (Month): 2 (May)
    Pages: 1-36

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    Handle: RePEc:ifs:fistud:v:17:y:1996:i:2:p:1-36
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    1. David Neumark, 1987. "Employers' discriminatory behavior and the estimation of wage discrimination," Special Studies Papers 227, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 1992. "The Gender Earnings Gap: Some International Evidence," NBER Working Papers 4224, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    4. Borooah, V K & Lee, K C, 1988. "The Effect of Changes in Britain's Industrial Structure on Female Relative Pay and Employment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(392), pages 818-32, September.
    5. Green, Francis & Machin, Stephen & Manning, Alan, 1996. "The Employer Size-Wage Effect: Can Dynamic Monopsony Provide an Explanation?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(3), pages 433-55, July.
    6. John F. Ermisch & Robert E. Wright, 1993. "Wage Offers and Full-Time and Part-Time Employment by British Women," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 28(1), pages 111-133.
    7. Machin, Steve, 1994. "Changes in the Relative Demand for Skills in the UK Labour Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 952, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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