Women workers at Dagenham’s Ford plant in 1968, many of whom were Irish, made history by going on strike to be paid the same rates as their male counterparts

Fawcett Society analysis of ONS figures finds Irish women in UK earn £18.04 per hour compared to £17.39 for Irish men

By Bernard Purcell

White Irish working women, and Caribbean women, have overtaken men in the same pay group, according to new research published to coincide with this week’s International Women’s Day (Wednesday 8 March).

The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, said Caribbean and white Irish working women, on average, earn more than men from the same backgrounds. This is in contrast to most ethnic groups in which men earn more than women, it found.

It said it used hourly pay data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) covering full-time employees in the UK. The gender pay gap, or the average difference in hourly pay between men and women, is 13.9 per cent for full-time workers, according to the ONS.

The biggest pay gap, it said, was between white British men and women, where between 2010 and 2015 male full-time workers were paid £15.35 an hour on average and women £13.21 Caribbean women, by contrast, earned £14.51 on average, compared to £13.34 for their male counterparts.

Irishwoman Louise Richardson is Oxford’s vice chancellor

White Irish women also had higher earning power at £18.04 per hour, compared to £17.39 for men, the Fawcett Society found. The report is based on analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Survey figures from 2010 to 2015, which collects information from 100,000 people every three months. The research excluded Arab people because the sample size was too small, but included Indian and Chinese people working at least 30 hours a week.

The smallest statistical sample was for Chinese workers, at 534, and the largest sample was for white British workers at 106,123 people. One of the report’s authors, Anthony Breach, said the “reverse” pay gap for black Caribbean people could be explained by mothers in this group returning to work while their children are very young.


Nevertheless, he said, black Caribbean men and women are still more likely to experience discrimination in the workplace.

“They have more difficulties in the labour market as a whole and we know men’s unemployment rate is higher,” he said. Meanwhile, pay for white Irish women in the UK has outpaced counterpart male salaries since the 2000s, the report said.

Mr Breach said white Irish women were more likely to do full-time work than white British women, and have a low unemployment rate compared with the rest of the population. Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers, warned the gender pay gap is still a “complex picture” in which many women are still left behind.

“This is a story of low labour market participation and low pay when they are in work – together with high levels of unpaid caring work,” she said. “But it is important to consider how that gender inequality is experienced by different ethnic groups to ensure that all women in Britain see their gender pay gap closed.”

The report reveals:

White Irish women have seen the most progress since the 1990s, overtaking White Irish men and White British men and now have a sizeable -17.5 per cent full-time pay gap. But this is largely due to generational factors as they are more likely to be older, working full-time or in senior or managerial roles.

Black African women have seen virtually no progress since the 1990s in closing the gender pay gap with White British men, with a full-time pay gap of 21.4 per cent in the 1990s and 19.6 per cent today. When part-time workers are included this figure rises to 24 per cent.

Fawcett Society Chief Executive Sam Smethers

Pakistani and Bangladeshi women experience the largest aggregate (i.e. including full-time and part-time workers) gender pay gap at 26.2 per cent.

Indian women experience the biggest pay gap with men in their ethnic group at 16.1per cent.

White British women have a larger pay gap than Black Caribbean women, Indian women or those who identify as ‘White Other’.

Women who identify as ‘White Other’ are the only group who have seen their pay gap widen since the 1990s from 3.5 per cent to 14 per cent today.

However, this is largely because the composition of this group has changed over time and is today largely comprised of Central and Eastern European migrant women, many of whom are in low paid work.

Commenting, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said: “This analysis reveals a complex picture of gender pay gap inequality. Black African women have been largely left behind, and in terms of closing the pay gap, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are today only where White British women were in the 1990s.”

“For these groups this is a story of low labour market participation and low pay when they are in work together with high levels of unpaid caring work.”

The report also reveals some women experiencing real progress:

Black Caribbean women in full-time work have overtaken Black Caribbean men so that they now have a reverse pay gap of -8.8 per cent. They also fare better than White British women when compared with White British men (a 5.5 per cent vs 13.9 per cent pay gap). They are more likely to be in the labour market (63 per cent compared to 54 per cent of White British women), are older and so have more experience of the workplace, and also more likely to be working full-time.

Black Caribbean mothers tend to return to work while their children are very young. However, at 10 per cent their unemployment rate is still twice that of White British women at 5 per cent. Black Caribbean men experience the highest unemployment rate of 16 per cent, are under-represented in better paid professions or senior positions and over-represented in routine occupations.

Irish Woman Constance Markievicz
(nee Gore-Booth) was the first women elected to the House of Commons in December 1918

Chinese women have reversed their pay gap since the 1990s. Those in full-time work now earn more per hour than White British men (a reverse gap of -5.6 per cent), but the gap between Chinese men and women has widened from 4.6 per cent in 2000s, to 11.6 per cent in 2010s.

Indian women have seen the gender pay gap with White British Men narrow from 26 per cent in the 1990s to 6.3 per cent in 2010s for those working full-time and reduce by more than half over that period when including part-time workers (from 27 per cent to 12 per cent). Yet those not in work are still significantly more likely than White British women to be doing unpaid caring work.

Sam Smethers added: “For women in some ethnic groups a combination of higher education, concentration in better paid professions and more women working full-time has seen their gender pay gap narrow or even reverse when compared with White British men.

However, when compared with men of their own ethnicity the pay gap has either widened over time (Chinese women) or narrowed at a much slower rate (Indian women), indicating that they are still experiencing gender inequality. “The exception to this is Black Caribbean men who are faring considerably worse in the labour market both in terms of pay and participation than Black Caribbean women.

However, Black Caribbean women still experience discrimination.

“We have to address pay inequality for all, and look behind the headline figures to get a true picture of what is going on. We also have to understand and address the combined impact of race and gender inequality. As a minimum the ONS should routinely collect and publish this data.”

She also called on policy makers to address the unequal impact of caring roles: “This is a significant contributing factor explaining the gender pay gap, regardless of ethnicity. But women in some minority ethnic groups are significantly more likely to do unpaid care work, keeping them out of the labour market.”

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