Occupational segregation – UK Government assessment
There have been legal or policy changes to improve human rights protections but very limited evidence of sustained improvements in the enjoyment of human rights on this issue
The UK Government has introduced some measures to increase the employment of certain protected characteristic groups, including in specific sectors, and the gender pay gap regulations have raised awareness and understanding of pay gaps. However, there has so far been limited impact on addressing occupational segregation. Women, people from ethnic minorities and disabled people are still over-represented in low-paid, part-time or insecure roles. Young people and men from certain ethnic minorities were more likely to work in shutdown sectors during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- The implementation of the gender pay gap regulations is a significant step in improving monitoring and reporting, but there is no requirement for employers to address the causes of pay gaps in their organisation.
- The gender pay gap fell from 18.2% in 2016 to 15.5% in 2020. The difference in pay between the sexes is still largest in high-paying occupations; however, this gap continues to fall.
- There have been advances in increasing the proportion of the workforce in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) roles who are women from 21% in 2016 to 24% in 2019.
- However, women continue to be less likely to be employed as managers, directors or senior officials than men; in April 2020, 9% of women were employed in such roles, compared to 14% of men. Women also remain under-represented in apprenticeship roles in sectors such as construction and engineering that tend to have better pay and prospects than predominantly female sectors, such as hairdressing and early years care.
- The ethnicity pay gap in England and Wales fell from 3.8% in 2016 to 2.3% in 2019, although there is clear evidence of occupational segregation related to ethnicity. In 2018, only 5% of Black workers were in ‘managing director or senior official jobs’, compared to 11% of White British people. People from the Black (16%) and White Other (15%) ethnic groups were more likely to be employed in ‘elementary’ jobs – the lowest skilled type of occupation.
- Disabled people remain more likely than non-disabled people to work in low-paying occupations and less likely to work in high-paying occupations.
- Part-time and flexible working are important ways of enabling some people to participate in the labour market, though part-time work is more closely associated with low-paid and insecure work. Women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and young people are over-represented in part-time work and the gig economy, which is a key causal factor in gender, disability and some ethnicity pay gaps.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the precarious nature of the gig economy and low-paid sectors, where women, young women and certain ethnic minority workers are over-represented and which were more likely to be shut down during the pandemic, such as hospitality and non-essential retail.
- The UK Government’s Build Back Better plan for growth 2021 and Plan for Jobs 2020 do not mention addressing occupational segregation or the factors leading to the over-representation of women, young people and certain ethnic minorities in struggling sectors.
- Implementation of the gender equality roadmap for change has not advanced. To date, no progress update or evaluation has been published, despite commitments to do so.
- A one-year-on report in 2018 found that there had been no progress on 12 of the 14 recommendations of the McGregor-Smith Review into the progression of ethnic minority people in the workplace.
Read more about the UK Government’s actions on occupational segregation.