Today is ‘equal pay day’, the day women stop earning relative to men because of the gender pay gap.
Thanks to the pay gap, women across the country earn on average 14.1 percent less than men; that’s 84p to every £1.
This gap means that from today, the average woman is working for free until the end of 2017.
This isn’t just caused by direct differences in pay for the same roles, as this was thankfully outlawed by the Equal Pay Act 47 years ago.
Instead, there are a number of contributing factors.
A divided labour market, for instance, means women make up 80 percent of care and leisure workers but only 8 percent of those working in better paid skilled trades.
Women also make up 61 percent of people in the UK earning less than the real living wage – an issue I highlighted just this week in calling for Barnsley’s business to pay their employees a proper income that covers the basic cost of living.
Women further play a significantly greater role in caring positions and responsibilities for children and sick or elderly relatives – roles which often remain unpaid or low waged.
On the other hand, men dominate senior positions and best paid roles; all but 6 of the Chief Executive positions in the FTSE100 companies are all held by men, for example.
It affects people here in my constituency of Barnsley East. According to the Fawcett Society women in our community earn on average 6.9 percent less than men. This isn’t good enough.
Across the UK, this gap had been closing. But for three years now it’s stayed the same.
In fact, if the average pay gap for full time workers continues to close at the rate it has over the last five years, women’s pay won’t reach parity with men’s until 2117.
That’s another 100 years before men and women earn the same.
This isn’t a case of calling for men to be paid less, but instead ensuring women here have the same opportunities to get skilled jobs, promotions, and good wages.
We can start by introducing mandatory equal pay auditing for large employers, and give the Equality and Human Rights Commission the funding it needs to really implement change.
It might not happen immediately, but it’s 2017 and women deserve the same pay as men.
We can’t wait until 2117.