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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

UK jumps to 13th place for female economic empowerment

The UK has climbed to its highest ever position in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Women in Work Index, ranking 13th out of 33 OECD countries for 2015.

Positive news for women in the UK ©Shutterstock
Positive news for women in the UK ©Shutterstock

Britain surpassed the average performance of OECD and G7 economies that year due to increasing female employment rates, narrowing the gender pay gap, and a reduction of the gap between male and female labour force participation rates.

However, despite this the country still lags behind on the number of women workers in full-time employment (30th place), and if historical trends continue, will take until 2041 to completely close its gender pay gap.

PwC economist, Yong Jing Teow, said: “It’s positive news that women in the UK have benefitted from the improving economy and there are now more women in work than ever before, but we still have a way to go.

“By fully closing the gender pay gap we could boost women’s earnings by £85bn, which is an average of £6,100 per woman per year.

“It’s not just about getting more women working, but also about getting more of them into high quality jobs that offer career progression and flexibility.”

The rankings for the index are based on countries’ gender pay gap, female labour force participation rate, gap between female and male labour force participation rates, female unemployment rate, and share of female employees in full-time employment.

The Nordic countries occupy the top three positions, with Iceland in 1st place, followed by Sweden in 2nd and Norway in 3rd, while Mexico was ranked bottom in the index, with Korea in 32nd place and Greece 31st.

The top 20 countries’ rank for 2015, and their 2014 position are shown below:

Source: PwC
Source: PwC

The PwC analysis shows that if historical trends continue, countries such as Poland, Luxembourg and Belgium, could close their gender pay gaps within two decades, however Germany and Spain might take over two centuries to achieve this without addressing underlying structural factors.

PwC head of people, Laura Hinton, said: “Pay reporting requirements should help speed up change as businesses will face greater accountability. But merely reporting numbers without any concrete action won’t change anything.

“We know that women are ambitious - we now need to create workplaces that support their ambition, and enough skilled and senior roles that have the flexibility to accommodate work and caring responsibilities.”

It is estimated that increasing female employment rates to match Sweden’s across OECD countries could boost their collective GDP by $6trn (£4.83trn), while the UK’s would increase by £170bn alone.