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Women earn £263,000 less than men throughout their lifetime

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Men continue to earn disproportionately higher than women, according to new figures. Photo: PA

The average British woman can expect to earn £263,000 less than the average man throughout their lifetime, according to official figures.

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shine a fresh light on the gender gap in pay and hours worked in modern Britain, revealing the average female worker’s lifetime earnings are 59% of what the average male takes home.

The latest figures show the gap has narrowed in recent years but only gradually, with women’s earnings only three percentage points higher as a proportion of men’s earnings in 2018 than in 2004.

Men’s average lifetime earnings also dropped in 2018 by 0.4%, whereas women’s remained unchanged.

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But male workers still earned an average of £643,000 throughout their working life, compared to £380,000 for women.

Average lifetime earnings for the UK workforce overall grew at the second-slowest rate in 2018 since 2004, despite official figures showing high levels of employment over the past few years and more recent increases in average pay.

The gap between men and women's earnings. Chart: ONS

The analysis published on Monday also showed the number of male and female UK workers and jobseekers with master’s degrees or PhDs has reached almost 4.5 million. It is now higher than the number without any qualifications, which sits at just over 3.4 million.

Workers with master’s degrees or PhDs appear to enjoy a pay premium, with earnings typically about 10% or £65,000 higher than those with undergraduate or equivalent degrees.

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The ONS said this pay premium is typically higher for women than men aged between 26 and 55, suggesting “it is more beneficial for women to obtain higher degrees than for men.”

But it said women with master’s or PhD qualifications still had average lifetime earnings around a third lower than men with the same qualifications.

Women aged 26 to 35 with such qualifications have average lifetime earnings of £803,000, whereas men of the same age with undergraduate level qualifications have average lifetime earnings of around £1,160,000.

“Across every age group, the average future lifetime earnings of women with master's or PhD degrees is substantially lower than that for men with undergraduate degrees,” the ONS noted.

The figures are from an ONS report on so-called “human capital”, in an eye-catching attempt by officials to put an estimated economic value on the “stock of skills, knowledge and experience” of the UK workforce.

It suggested women’s lower average hours throughout their lifetimes account for part of the difference in lifetime earnings and economic value added, calculating that women’s human capital “is 22.7% lower than men’s.”|

The ONS estimates the total value of Britain’s human capital at £21.4 trillion, around 10 times the size of Britain’s GDP.

This marks a 0.2% rise on 2018, driven by rising average education levels for those in work and a growing population.

It comes a day after separate figures from advice site RestLess suggested the gender pay gap widens as workers grow older. It found the average woman in her 50s working full-time had an average salary of over £32,000, about 28% lower than her male counterparts of the same age.