Guernsey Press

Gender pay gap could take decades to close

CURRENT trends indicate that pay parity between men and women could take decades to achieve.

Leyla Yildirim, PwC Channel Island’s chief strategy officer.

The pay gap locally is 16% – worse than the OECD average of 14% and one of the highest pay gaps in the Channel Islands Women in Work Index 2023, produced by PwC.

Closing the gap would boost women’s earnings in Guernsey by up to an estimated £159m. a year.

‘In the Channel Islands, we have a critical need for more talent and skills to drive growth and economic prosperity. We need to get away from the notion that equality, diversity and inclusion is a nice to have,’ said Leyla Yildirim, PwC Channel Island’s chief strategy officer.

‘There is a compelling business imperative to fill existing skill gaps and ensure there is a healthy talent pipeline for the future.

‘It should be a top priority to attract and incentivise back into the workforce everyone who is able and wants to work. Where we have known barriers to that being achieved, we must remove them.’

PwC said that increasing the proportion of women in work in Guernsey to the same level as Sweden could boost the island’s GDP by 6%, which would be worth nearly £200m. a year.

An 11% gender pay gap in Jersey is smaller than in Guernsey and better than the OECD average.

And progress towards pay parity in Guernsey is also falling behind other economies like Luxembourg, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK.

Globally, PwC produces an annual Women in Work Index of equality between the sexes in OECD countries across a range of measures, including employment rates, pay and participation.

PwC’s research team used the same criteria to assess how the Channel Islands would rank if included in the index. Guernsey would rank 16th and Jersey would rank 15th out of 33 OECD countries. Luxembourg, New Zealand and Slovenia hold the top three places. The UK is 14th.

The Channel Islands have a relatively high proportion of women of working age who are not in employment.

The States of both islands have shown an interest in exploring how this could be changed in the light of a low rate of unemployment, critical skills gaps, an ageing population, low birth rates and a shrinking workforce.

PwC’s index acknowledges there are people who can afford or have just chosen not to work. However, it is known that there are also significant barriers to work, such as lack of flexibility from employers and the high costs of childcare, which are a disincentive to women in particular working full time or at all.

It said Jersey was behind the curve in supporting women and parents but not as far behind as Guernsey.

‘During our research, we have also identified a talent pool of both men and women who are not economically active over the age of 50 in both islands,’ said PwC. ‘This presents a further opportunity to potentially boost the labour force.’

It makes various recommendations to speed up parity between the sexes, including government actions, a strategy to get people back into work, reviewing parental leave and childcare entitlement and providing free training for in-demand skills.