Women in their twenties and thirties now earn more on average than men, as the gender pay gap has narrowed.
The difference between pay for men and women in full-time employment dropped to 9.4 per cent in the year to April — the lowest level since records began in 1997. Women aged 22 to 29 in full-time work earned on average 1.1 per cent more than men, up from 0.3 per cent last year. For the first time, women between 30 and 39 also enjoyed a pay premium— albeit of only 0.2 per cent.
The figures, part of an annual survey of salaries by the Office for National Statistics, show how far Britain has come. The gender pay gap was 17.4 per cent in 1997, and 10 per cent last year.
George Osborne said the figures were “another sign of progress in the fight for equal pay”.
However, the change was a result of real wages for men falling faster than for women. Overall, full-time workers got a pay rise of only £1 a week to £518 in the year to April, the smallest annual increase since records began in 1997.
After adjusting for inflation, pay declined 1.6 per cent, the steepest drop in three years. The figures also confirmed that households have endured a six-year squeeze on incomes.
“Inflation-adjusted earnings have continued to decrease every year since 2008, to levels last seen in the early 2000s,” the ONS said.
There were some positive developments. Pay for full-time employees in the same job for at least a year — about two thirds of the workforce — rose by 4.1 per cent.
After inflation, that was equivalent to a 2.4 per cent real wage increase — the best since 2008.
Despite the improvement in the gender pay gap, the TUC said more could be done. It called for better paid, flexible, part-time work opportunities, and better paid leave for fathers, to encourage more equal parenting.