Friday, January 12, 2018

UK Gender Pay Gap

What is the Gender Pay Gap in the UK?
Progress has stalled on closing the gender pay gap, which now stands at 14.1% according to the Office for National Statistics, with no movement on the figure in the last three years. At the current rate of change it will take 100 years to close the male-female gap in pay.
     According to the ONS, older women face the greatest discrimination, with women in their 50s paid on average 18.6% less than their male colleagues. While the gap among younger women had almost been eliminated, in the last six years there was a notable increase, from 1.1% in 2011 to 5.5% this year.
     The gap is highest in London (20.7%), followed by the south-east at 16.3%. It is lowest in Wales, at 8.3%, and the north-east, at 10.2%. The gap is higher in the private sector, at 17.1%. But it has fallen by 4.3% points since 2011, while in the public sector it has plateaued at just above 14%.
The Guardian, 10 November 2017
     A Populist might think: Clearly there is sexism in how people are paid, and clearly it is worse in London. But London is a relatively progressive place, so why would there be so much more sexism in London? Well, there are more foreigners in London, and a lot of foreign countries are more sexist than we are. Could the solution to the problem of the Gender Pay Gap therefore be immigration limitation? Of course, that's silly; so the question arises: should we blame sexism? If sexism is not the whole story, then we may well go wrong if we do. Equal Pay legislation has been around for a while, so there must be more to the Gender Pay Gap than men getting paid more than women for doing the same job, even if there are occasional instances of illegality.
     The key to unlocking the meaning of any statistics is lateral thinking, because we need, of course, the full range of possibilities to examine, if we are not to go wrong in our analyses. I shall run through a few possibilities below, but I am not a statistician; I cannot aim for completeness. My point is the logical point that when we are given statistics by professionals we also need to be given, not just links to where the numbers came from, but also a list of a broad range of factors that might have given rise to them, and some argument that that range is complete. Professionals should be able to do that, because statistics have also been around for a while.
     A large part of the Gender Pay Gap comes from the most highly paid (who tend to be older, and to work in London), so the question arises: is that part mostly due to men getting paid, on average, more than women for doing the same sort of top jobs, or to men getting, on average, better paid top jobs than women? The former should be dealt with by the courts; regarding the latter, individuals at high levels of pay are often paid for what they seem to be offering as that individual. Consequently it matters, not so much what colleagues are getting, as how much the individual could get elsewhere. And so if men are, on average, more mobile than women, then that could lead to a Gender Pay Gap, because being able to choose from a greater range of jobs would tend to increase the pay of the highest paid job. Note that people do tend to move to London to get jobs and promotions.
     Men might be more mobile. At the other end of the pay scale, a proposed solution to the pay gap has indeed been to improve the availability of child care. And just as childcare is a factor because women have wombs, so men may, perhaps, be more likely to work in order to show off (which could tend to make them more mobile). Such displays may well have been part of our biological differences earlier in our evolution, and in the modern economy men might therefore be statistically more suited to such areas as sport, gaming, banking and so forth, areas that tend to have very high pay at the top, and which tend to be in the private sector. There might even be an element of danger-money in such areas. Overall, life-expectancy is a few years less for men than it is for women (a gap that is also no longer shrinking), and according to HSE:
In 2016/17, 133 (97%) of all worker fatalities were to male workers, a similar proportion to earlier years.
Since most of those were in low-paid work, that might go some way towards explaining that part of the Gender Pay Gap (note that there would be greater numbers of injured, and so forth).
     The most obvious biological factor, though, is that men tend to be taller than women, on average, so that there are a lot more men than women among the tallest people. That is a possible factor in the Gender Pay Gap because people do naturally tend to look up (pun intended) to tall people, so that being tall has long been known to be a desirable quality in management. Note that it is not so much whether tall people do make better leaders, as whether recruiters think that other people will think more highly of tall people, and give them better results. (Note that this factor might be exacerbated by taller boys tending to think of themselves as natural leaders, while taller girls tend towards shyness to some extent, for just one example of an exacerbating factor.)
     The question is: what are the other factors? Why has a complete list not figured in the recent political debates (e.g. those recently sparked by Carrie Gracie)?
     What other factors can you think of?

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