PwC report finds negative impact as more women work part time

Rising numbers of women in part-time employment means Britain is continuing to lag behind its European counterparts in narrowing the gender pay gap.

This is the conclusion of PwC’s second Women In Work Index, which shows that despite there being more women in work than ever before, the UK ranks only 18th out of 27 OECD counties for female participation and pay.

Gaenor Bagley, head of people and executive board member at PwC, said: “The low level of females in full-time employment is holding back both the UK economic recovery and women’s career progression. Despite the perception that flexible working helps women, our index and wider research suggests it could instead be holding them back in many cases.”

She added: “The decision to go part-time is often made for short term reasons, but unfortunately for women it often seems to have a wider, long-term negative impact.”

According to the report, the UK has made a one-place improvement on last year, but overall it still means that this ranking is worse than at the turn of the century. In 2000, the UK was placed as high as 14th.

Yong Jing Teow, an economist at PwC, described the lack of progress being made as “disappointing”, and added other countries such as the Netherlands and Ireland have over-performed compared to the UK, rising five places each.

The report finds that while the UK has closed the gender pay gap from 26 per cent in 2000 to 18 per cent in 2012, it is still above the OECD average of 16 per cent. In the same time period however, other countries have made substantial progress. Ireland, for example has reduced its gender pay gap to just 4 per cent (from 20 per cent in 2000).

PwC also found that while the proportion of women in the UK who work is above the OECD average, the percentage holding full-time jobs was lower than all but two of the countries measured.

Teow said: “If we want to see a meaningful change to women’s economic empowerment in the UK we will have to speed up the rate of change, otherwise we risk falling behind other high income countries.”

Countries leading the gender pay league table are Norway, followed by Denmark and Sweden – all countries that have shared parental leave.

PwC’s findings come just three months after statistics by ONS found that the gender pay gap in Britain had widened for the first time in five years.

It found the difference between male and female full-time employees increased from 9.5 per cent in 2012 to 10 per cent in 2013. Meanwhile, for all employees (including part-time workers), the difference rose from 19.6 per cent to 19.7 per cent over the same period.