The annual survey of hours and earnings by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the “gender gap” between salaries for men and women is closing as wages for women are now rising faster than for men.
The reserach also shows that public sector workers on average earn £2 more per hour than private sector workers even though there has been a pay freeze for state workers.
The ONS said that the difference in pay for public sector workers compared to their private sector equivalents was greater amongst low paid workers.
The survey found that public sector workers earn more than private sector workers despite the freeze in pay of the last two years for public sector employees.
Full-time public sector workers saw their weekly earnings rise by 1.6 per cent to £565, while private sector workers saw a rise of 1.5 per cent to £479 per week.
Public sector workers earn on average 14.9 per cent more than their counterparts in the private sector but that this gap widens to 16.7 per cent amongst the low paid. In April 2011, the lowest paid state employees earned £6.77 per hour compared to £5.80 for worlers in the private sector.
The ONS says that the pay gap between men and women has fallen to below ten per cent for the first time since records began in 2000. However, there is still a gap of £97 per week between the average weekly pay for a man and a woman, though this is partly due to more women working part-time.
Based on hourly earnings, the gender pay gap for full-time employees has fallen from a difference in the hourly rate of 10.5 per cent to 9.6 per cent. Women now earn an average of £12 an hour compared to £13.27 for men. In 2000, there was a difference of more than 16 per cent.
The gender gap is calculated as the difference between men and women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings.
The study shows that average salaries increased by 1.5 per cent in 2011, up from £498 to £506 per week. Salaries for women rose by 1.9 per cent to £449 per week and salaries for men increased by 1.4 per cent to £546.
This means that the average pay for a man in full-time employment is £28,700, compared to £23,100 for women, a difference of £5,600.
In the financial year to April 2012, the gross annual earnings for full-time employees who had been in the same job for 12 months had risen by 1.4 per cent to £26,500, roughly half the current level of the consumer prices index (CPI) measure of inflation which rose to 2.7 per cent in October. Inflation averaged 3.5 per cent in the period covered by the survey.
The research also suggests the gap in what the lowest and highest paid workers earn is falling. Wage increases for full-time employees in the bottom docile went up by 2.3 per cent to £7.13 an hour, compared to just a 0.2 per cent rise in hourly earnings for full-time employees in the top docile which between 2011 and 2012 rose to £26.56 per hour.
A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: "This is good news. But the gender pay gap still remains too large. One big reason for this is that too many women are going into the sort of professions that don’t give them the opportunity to reach their earning potential.
“Women are vital to our economic growth and we need to make the most of everything they have to offer."
The ONS also published figures for part-time earnings and found that amongst part-time workers women in that type of employment earn eight per cent more than men, £158 per week compared to the figure of £146 for men.
Men earn an average of £7.72 per hour, up one per cent on 12 months ago, whereas their female counterparts earn an average of £8.12 an hour, up 1.2 per cent.
Brendan Barber, the TUC’s general secretary, said: "It's encouraging to see the gender pay gap fall again this year.
However, he noted that the pay gap between full-time and part-time workers is increasing with a disproportionate impact on women who are more likely to work part-time.
He said: "The pay gap between full and part-time workers is actually getting worse.
"This is terrible news for the millions of people who need to work part-time to balance work and caring responsibilities, or who simply can't find full-time jobs."
Unsurprisingly, average weekly earnings in London were the highest at £653 with Welsh workers earning the least per week, £453.
The ONS said that in April 2012 there were 287,000 people in jobs paying less than the minimum wage, 1.1 per cent of the total workforce.
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