Women Returning to Labor Market Power British Employment Surge

Updated on
  • Increase partly due to fewer women retiring after age 60
  • BOE Governor Mark Carney quizzed about gender pay gap

A day after Bank of England Governor Mark Carney was grilled on the gender pay gap, new data showed that women are driving Britain’s jobs boom.

Women accounted for 246,000 of the 317,000 increase in total employment over the past year, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. That’s partly due to changes to the state pension age, which mean fewer are retiring between age 60 to 65, it said.

The issue of women in the workforce has been put under the spotlight by new rules that require all firms with 250 or more employees to calculate and report any disparity in wages between male and female workers by April.

Carney, who pledged on his arrival at the BOE in 2013 to remedy the gender imbalance at the institution’s highest levels, told lawmakers in London on Tuesday that the central bank has a pay gap of 24 percent due to a dearth of women in senior roles. The rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee has only one woman and the Financial Policy Committee has none at all.

The sharp increase in female employment -- women accounted for more than 80 percent of the 94,000 jobs created between June and August -- may reflect the strength of the labor market. Unemployment is at its lowest rate for four decades and some sectors are struggling to find staff. But it may also be due to the pressure on family finances as wage growth continues to lag well behind the rate of inflation. 

The proportion of women in employment stood at 70.7 percent, close to a record high. Correspondingly, there was a drop in those neither in work nor looking for a job.

The data also indicate that despite the changes, traditional gender roles persist. Of the record-low 2.07 million people declaring themselves inactive because they were looking after a family or home, 1.85 million were women.

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