What does the UK look like for young women? Report by the Fawcett society

Fawcett Society


The UK is slipping down the league table on gender equality internationally. In 2006, Britain was 9th in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality league table, but we had moved down nine places to 18th in 2015, even dropping as far as 26th in 2014.2, 3 We currently rank 48th in the world for women’s representation in parliament,4 and at current rates of progress it will take 62 years to close the gender pay gap.5 The economic and social position of young women in the UK is proving slow to shift. The number of women graduating from university overtook the number of male graduates in the 1990s.6 Girls out-perform boys at school and have done since 1988.7 It is often argued that it is men and boys we should be concerned about, but look behind the headline statistics and what we see are stark inequalities facing young women in the UK today which have barely shifted in decades and are even getting worse. Girls’ educational attainment does not translate into progress and higher pay in the workplace. Over the last two decades, the gender pay gap has not been falling for women with A-levels or degrees.8 Millennial women experience a gender pay gap of 5% rising to 9% by the time they are 30.9 They are on the same trajectory as older generations of women and are likely to see the gender pay gap open up as they get older. The gender pay gap young apprentices face is £2,000 per year.10 There are more young women who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) than there are young men and they are more likely to be defined as economically inactive and to remain so for longer. There are currently 428,000 young women aged 18-24 who are NEET, of whom 280,000 are ‘economically inactive’. There are 310,000 young men who are NEET, of whom 120,000 are inactive. 180,000 young women are caring yet defined as ‘economically inactive’ compared to just 10,000 young men in this group who are caring.11 Perhaps most worrying of all is recent evidence on the mental health and wellbeing of young women, who are now identified as a high-risk group in terms of their likelihood of experiencing mental ill health. One NHS study found that 12.6% of women aged 16-24 screen positive for post-traumatic stress disorder, three times the incidence amongst young men, whilst 19.7% self-harm and 28.2% have a mental health condition.12 Girlguiding also found that 69% of girls feel they are ‘not good enough’, that girls’ reported happiness declines as they get older, and that 62% of girls say that they know a girl their own age with a mental health condition.13 2 2015, World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2015 http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2015/ 3 2014, World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2014 http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2014/ 4 2016, Women in National Parliaments, Inter-Parliamentary Union http://www.ipu.org/WMN-e/classif.htm 5 2016, Fawcett Society, ‘Gender Pay Gap and Causes Briefing: Equal Pay Day, 10th November 2016’, http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/wp-content/ uploads/2016/11/Equal-Pay-Day-2016-Briefing.pdf 6 School enrolment, tertiary (gross); gender parity index (GPI), UNESCO Institute for Statistics/World Bank, accessed 11/01/2017 http://data.worldbank. org/indicator/SE.ENR.TERT.FM.ZS?end=2014&locations=GB&start=1992&view=chart 7 2007 Department for Education and Skills, Gender and education: the evidence on pupils in England http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov. uk/20090108131525/http:/dcsf.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/rtp01-07.pdf 8 Monica Costa Dias, William Elming, and Robert Joyce (2016),The Gender Wage Gap, Institute for Fiscal Studies 9 2017, Resolution Foundation, http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/blog/the-gender-pay-gap-has-almost-closed-for-millennial-women-but-itcomes-shooting-back-when-they-turn-30/ 10 2016, Young Women’s Trust, Making Apprenticeships Work for Young Women Workhttp://www.youngwomenstrust.org/assets/0000/2906/Making_ Apprenticeships_Work_for_Young_Women.pdf 11 Accessed 2017, Youth Unemployment, Young Women’s Trust http://www.youngwomenstrust.org/what_we_do/campaigning/youth_employment 12 2014, Mental Health and Wellbeing in England Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748/apms-2014-fullrpt.pdf 13 2016, Girlguiding, Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2016 https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/globalassets/docs-and-resources/research-and-campaigns/girlsattitudes-survey-2016.pdf


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