Scotland makes gains in PwC Women in Work Index but slips in rankings
Scotland has improved its performance in PwC’s Women in Work Index thanks to advances in the country’s gender pay gap and an increased share of women in full-time employment.
In spite of an improved score in the Index, Scotland slipped one place to third in the rankings, largely due to a much-improved year for Wales, which moved from seventh to second.
The South West of England remained in first place.
The Women in Work Index measures progress in women’s employment outcomes across 33 OECD countries, including across 12 nations and regions in the UK. The UK climbed from 16 to nine on the overall Index, as a result of the gender pay gap temporarily narrowing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the pandemic has set back progress towards gender equality in work across the OECD by at least two years, according to the research carried out by PwC.
The Index is derived from a weighted average of five indicators with Scotland either in line with, or above, the UK average in all measures. The proportion of working-age women in the labour force in Scotland is 74%, the same as the UK overall. There is a six percentage point difference in male and female participation rates, better than the UK difference of eight percentage points.
The female unemployment rate is in line with the UK, at 4%, while the share of females in full-time employment is 61%, the same as the UK. The gender pay gap is 11% compared to the UK’s 14%.
Jason Morris, regional market leader for PwC Scotland, commented: “It is encouraging to see improvements in three of the five metrics measured for this year’s Women in Work Index. And while change in certain matters may have happened more quickly in some other locations, Scotland is absolutely moving in the right direction and we should be proud of being in line with or ahead of the UK averages on all measures.
“As office-based staff adapt to a new, more flexible way of working, progress must continue. This year’s Index shows there is a clear requirement for investing in and providing upskilling and reskilling opportunities for women of all backgrounds.
“Further to that, creating more flexible working opportunities for both men and women - such as shared parental leave and affordable childcare - can also play a substantial role in reducing the inequalities around unpaid care and domestic work that remain for women.”
While this performance in Scotland was a positive step in creating a more equal workforce, the overall picture across the OECD was somewhat gloomier. After a decade of slow but consistent gains for women across the OECD, the Index fell for the first time in its ten-year history, confirming last year’s predictions that women’s jobs were hit harder than men’s jobs across the OECD by Covid-19.
The two main factors contributing to the fall were higher female unemployment and lower labour force participation rates during 2020.
OECD data backs up last year’s estimates that women took on more unpaid childcare responsibilities than men during the pandemic, causing them to leave the workforce at higher rates than men. Mothers were three times more likely than fathers to report taking on either the majority, or all, of the additional unpaid care work created by school or childcare facility closures.
The UK’s rise to ninth on the Index came as it strongly outperformed other OECD countries, placing it almost 10% above the OECD average in 2020. This is the largest annual improvement the UK has achieved in the 10-year history of the Index.
However, this year’s findings may not necessarily indicate there has been a real-term benefit to women’s employment outcomes. The Index shows that a key driver was a temporary fall in men’s median weekly earnings, with the short-term effects of the pandemic on wages and furlough skewing down earnings.
Men’s earnings have since rebounded, and the gender pay gap in the UK has widened again by two percentage points, back up to 14%. However women’s median earnings continued to rise during the pandemic.
PwC’s analysis looks towards the future composition of work across the OECD, as the energy sector (responsible for 35% of all carbon emissions globally) transitions to net zero. There will be net job creation across OECD economies - with new green jobs concentrated in the utilities, construction and manufacturing sectors. These three sectors are all heavily male dominated - currently employing 31% of the male workforce across the OECD, but just over 11% of the female workforce.
If nothing is done to improve women’s representation in these sectors, PwC estimates that the employment gap between men and women across the OECD - which measures the additional number of men in employment, expressed as a percentage of the number of employed women - will widen by 1.7 percentage points by 2030 (rising from 20.8% in 2020 to 22.5% in 2030).