Gender pay gap means British women 'work for free' until year end: campaigners

November 9, 2016 7:12 PM EST

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By Umberto Bacchi

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women in Britain will effectively work for free from Thursday until the end of the year because of the disparity in earnings with their male colleagues, a leading women's rights group said.

Overall, women in Britain were paid 13.9 percent less than men in 2016, a slight improvement on the previous year when the average full time gender pay gap was 14.1 percent, according to the Fawcett Society.

As a result, Equal Pay Day, which marks the date after which women "work for free" due to the pay gap fell on Nov. 10, one day later this year than in 2015, it said.

At the current rate, it will take another 62 years before women's work is valued as much as that of men, the group calculated using data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

"We won't finally close the gender pay gap until we end pay discrimination, address the unequal impact of caring roles, tackle occupational segregation and routinely open up senior roles to women," Fawcett Society's chief executive, Sam Smethers, said in a statement.

Many women in Britain are trapped in low-paid, part-time work in which their skills are not fully used, a parliamentary committee said in March.

Only about a quarter of senior staff roles at the Britain's biggest companies are filled by women, according to a government-backed review published on Wednesday.

The independent Hampton-Alexander found that executive committees belonging to 12 FTSE 100 companies had no women on them and urged firms to increase female representation in senior management to 33 percent by 2020.

"It's vital we help more women get into the top jobs at our biggest companies, not only because it inspires the next generation but because financially business can't afford to ignore this issue," Britain's minister for women and equalities, Justine Greening, said in a statement.

Bridging the gender gap could add 150 billion pounds ($185.51 billion) to the British economy by 2025, with 840,000 more women in work, according to a McKinsey Global Institute study published in September.

In 2016, the UK dropped from the 18th position to the 20th in the World Economic Forum's annual Global Gender Gap Report, due to a slight drop in female representation in politics and business.

Iceland and Finland ranked highest among 144 nations measured on progress in equality in education, health and survival, economic opportunity and political empowerment.

($1 = 0.8086 pounds)

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)



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