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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 23:33 GMT 00:33 UK
Work gender gap 'narrows'
The gap in employment rates between men and women is narrowing, with more women in work, a new report suggests.

Women's employment rates have risen over the last twenty years, while men's have fallen slightly.

An increasing number of women are returning to work after childbirth, partly encouraged by more flexible work.

But while women perform better in school, they were still much less likely to work in managerial jobs.

Flexible working

In 1984 the number of women in work was 58% compared with 77% for men, but the figures now stand at 70% for women and 79% for men.

Click here to see where men and women work

Around six million people in the UK are now able to work flexibly, according to the study for the Office of National Statistics.

More women may be working but they are also more likely to be earning the minimum wage
Equal Opportunities Commission spokesperson

According to the survey, just under a third of women and almost two in ten men have been able to work flexibly this year.

The move has also meant more women are returning to work after childbirth.

But while girls performed better than boys in school, women were still more likely than men to have no qualifications.

A spokesperson for the Equal Opportunities Commission said: "Although the large increase in part-time jobs in the service and retail sectors have enabled more women with children to work - these jobs tend to be poorly paid.

"More women may be working but they are also more likely to be earning the minimum wage."

Traditional occupations

While the gender work gap is narrowing, men and women still follow very similar career paths as they did twenty years ago.

Men are more likely to work in manufacturing and production, while women are more likely to work in services.

A woman is still less likely to be promoted and...earn the same rate as a similarly qualified and skilled man
EOC

In particular, women continue their strong tradition of working in administrative and secretarial, personal services and sales occupations - and they are twice as likely to work in the public sector than men.

Men tend to opt for skilled trade occupations, plant and machine operations and managerial occupations.

But women still appear to be finding it hard to get to the top, with around 10% of women working as managers or senior officials in 2003, compared with 18% of men.

"In Britain today, a woman is still less likely to be promoted and less likely to earn the same rate as a similarly qualified and skilled man," the spokesperson for the EOC added.



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Julie Mellor, Equal Opportunities Commisssion
"Britain needs to re-evaluate the jobs that women do"



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