Older women taking on more jobs, study finds, but pay gap between the sexes is growing wider
More than three-quarters of the rise in female employment, which hit record levels last December, is the result of women aged over 50 taking on jobs, a study has found.
A report by the TUC to be released this week has established that 2,278,000 more women are now working than in 1992, and that 1,645,000 (72%) of these are aged 50 or over.
Last week the government welcomed news that more women were in work, with the proportion – 67.2% – the highest since records began 43 years ago. The TUC study pinpoints how many older women have felt the need to return to work or to continue working until later in life, for a combination of reasons. These include the rising cost of living, the increase in the state pension age and the fall in value of workplace pensions.
While much of the rise in female employment is due to the greater number of over-50s in the population, the rate of employment has risen too. In 1992, 50.7% of women in the 50-64 age group were economically “inactive”, compared with 36.8% today.
The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Many work because they want to and can take advantage of the new opportunities and attitudes that have opened up during their lifetimes. Others are working because they cannot afford not to. The living standards crisis, the increase in the state pension age and the decline in workplace pensions all put pressure on older women. Many will be the sole earner in a household, such as when they need to support a partner who can no longer work or cannot find a job.”
While the study finds reasons to celebrate more older women being in work, it raises concerns about low pay, lack of training and an acutegender pay gap between people in their 50s. Of all women over 50 in work, average pay is £15,000 a year; for women over 60 it is £11,000. The gender pay gap is also higher than for any other decade of life, with average full-time hourly earnings for women 18.4% below those of men.
The TUC says this is because women are still being penalised, in terms of pay, for having children. “Women in their 50s are effectively still paying the price for having taken time out of the labour market and having worked part time. Many of these women now find themselves still juggling low-paid, part-time work with caring responsibilities – those that no longer have dependent children may be doing regular care for their grandchildren, elderly parents or a sick or disabled partner.”
The report adds: “Many returned to work after having children and struggled to combine work with childcare at a time when few employers offered flexible working. The fact that this generation of women earns a fifth less than their male counterparts and less than any other age group of women should set alarm bells ringing.”
The report finds that half of the women in work are part-timers, many of whom want to work longer hours.
Source: The Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/feb/23/surge-women-workers-over-50s
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