Stirling experts tackle the gender pay gap

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Experts from the University of Stirling presented evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Fair Work and Jobs Committee today, 25 April, as part of its inquiry into the impact of equal pay.

Professor David Bell and Dr Tanya Wilson from Stirling Management School gave the cross-party group valuable background on gender pay differences in Scotland, providing analysis on why a gender pay gap exists. The Committee is interested in whether closing the gender pay gap could boost the Scottish economy.

Professor David Bell

Economist Professor David Bell presented the report to Parliament.


Stirling economist Professor David Bell, said: “We hope we’ve provided the parliamentary committee with a comprehensive understanding of the current disparity in wages in Scotland, and how this might be tackled in the most effective way.

“The gender pay gap can be measured in various ways and assessing the links between the gender pay gap and economic growth is difficult. For example, GDP growth is driven by different sectors, at different times and if a booming sector predominately employ males, economic growth will only increase the gender pay gap.”

The researchers analysed the pay gap approximation of 30% in 2016 and compared the pay of full-time and part-time workers separately. They found a lower gender pay gap of 18% for full-time workers and a pay gap in favour of women of 14% for part-time workers.

Professor Bell added: “Part-time workers have fewer skills than full-time workers because, on average, they have less work experience and are less qualified. As a consequence, full-time workers are typically paid more than part-timers, and because more men than women work full-time, the overall gender pay gap favours men.”

Gender imbalance

The report also explored how different occupations and sectors contribute to the gender pay gap and addressed differences in skills which influence wages.

Dr Tanya Wilson, Economics Research Fellow at the University of Stirling, said: “Although the education gap in attainment in Scotland has closed, difference in subject choice persist. Girls are less likely to study science-based subject, such as physics, computing and technology studies, and this has been consistent for the last 30 years.

“Many programs are now underway to address the gender imbalance in subject choice, from primary up to university level. If these initiatives work together they may prove vital in improving the subject imbalance, which has a major influence on someone’s earning potential in the future.”

The team advised that when men and women enter the world of work, the pay gap is marginal. However, it increases to 10% within a decade and then to 20% for full-time workers by the age of 40, with the largest increase occurring during traditional child-bearing ages.

Dr Wilson added: “We believe policy must be directed towards influencing and supporting women around they age they are thinking about having children, as well as those with higher levels of pay, to ensure there’s a significant further reduction in Scotland’s pay gap.”

The inquiry was launched in February by Convener of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee, Gordon Lindhurst MSP.

Lindhurst said: “The Committee wants to consider the economic value of equal pay and understand the impact of the gender pay gap on the Scottish economy. Vital to this inquiry will be the direct experiences of people ‘on the ground’- the businesses and organisations that are working to close the gender pay gap, and individuals who struggle to access equal pay. Their expertise and experiences will guide and lead our work, telling us what measures are being taken – and what still needs to happen - to create a level playing field.”

Current research on gender pay gap shows the pay gap will not be eradicated until 2069 – or 99 years after the 1970 Equal Pay Act*, with women working full-time in Scotland still earning on average 6.2% less than men**.