A shortage of "quality" part-time work is forcing women with children to downshift to lower-status jobs which pay them less and fail to use their skills properly, according to a government-commissioned report published yesterday.
Interim findings of the Women and Work Commission, set up by the prime minister last autumn to consider how to close the UK's continuing gender pay and opportunities gap, highlight how women working part-time are now lagging behind not only male full-timers but also their full-time female counterparts.
The commission, which is due to publish its recommendations in September, concludes that discrimination and lesser opportunity for women are "deeply ingrained" in British society. While some women combine respected and well-paid careers with family life, others find it difficult to enter work at all - often because of care responsibilities - and others are "stuck to the floor of low-paid jobs" with no opportunities for training or promotion.
Part-time work, often chosen by women attempting to balance employment with care roles, continues to be exceptionally badly paid, 30 years after the Equal Pay Act, the report finds. The gap between the median hourly pay of women and men working full-time was 14.4% in 2004, while that between part-time women and full-time men was 43.2%.
The commission said the female-female pay gap caused "particular concern". In 2004, women working part-time earned 33.7% less per hour than those working full-time, and the trend - unlike the gender pay gap - is rising.
Government research suggests about half the same-sex gap is down to the variation in education and skills of women working part-time and the rest is the result of differences in occupations. Almost one in four women working part-time is a sales assistant, cleaner or care assistant.
Lucy Ward, social affairs correspondent The Guardian