Female civil servants 'may wait until 2054 for equal pay'

Whitehall has an average gender pay gap of 13%, analysis of official statistics shows


By Tamsin Rutter

11 Aug 2017

The pay gap between male and female civil servants only narrowed by 2.4% between 2010 and 2017.

Whitehall’s persistent pay gap is closing – but so slowly that at its current trajectory it will take 37 years to achieve pay equality between men and women, an analysis has revealed.

A crunch by the Guardian of Office for National Statistics data released in July found that the average male civil servant earns £28,280 while the average female employee earns £24,680, a gap of 13%.

Between 2010 and 2017 the gender pay gap narrowed by just 2.4%. At the current rate of change, men and women in Whitehall will not have equal earnings until 2054, according to the analysis.


The gender pay gap has actually widened in some departments, including the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The pay gaps at these departments are 18% and 21% respectively. The Treasury also has an above average gender pay gap, at 18%.

The Attorney General's Office and the Office for Budget Responsibility had the biggest gaps – at 41% and 37% respectively – but these are small organisations with few staff.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told the Guardian that the overall pay gap had narrowed, but that small organisations, such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, are very sensitive to minor changes in staffing.

“The pay gap is affected by differences in seniority, profession and regional distribution of staff, which can be very different across departments and are not controlled for in the raw data.”

Speaking to Civil Service World, Alice Lilly, a researcher at the Institute for Government, explained that a full understanding of the pay gap should take into account gender balance at different civil service grades. "Women outnumber men at the most junior grades, but the reverse is still true at more senior ones," she said.

Women make up 54% of all civil servants, and 41% of senior civil servants, an increase from 34% in 2010.

"The increasing number of women at the most senior levels means that we should expect to see some further progress on the gender gap in the coming years," she continued. "The government’s forthcoming diversity strategy is an opportunity to address this – and permanent secretaries, who have increasing diversity as part of their objectives, also need to take action."

Civil Service World’s analysis of the data, which comes from annual reports that Whitehall departments make to the ONS, found the gender pay gap for full-time staff in the senior civil service increased from 3.7% in 2015-16 to 4.2% in the year to April 2017.

Sue Ferns, deputy general secretary at the trade union Prospect, told Civil Service World that the 1% public sector pay cap was partly to blame for slow progress on pay equality.

"Employers facing skill shortages have had to resport to 'sticking plaster' fixes as a result of the public sector pay cap instead of structured pay progression," she said. "This is bad news for the gender pay gap and unsustainable beyond the short term."

A new diversity and inclusion strategy, which will outline the government’s methods in improving the gender balance of the civil service at all levels, will be published this autumn.

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