Gender differences in rates of full-time and part-time paid work after childbirth are an important driver of differences in hourly wages between men and women. This is because they affect the amount and type of labour market experience that men and women build up, and this experience affects the hourly wage levels they can command. In this paper we show that differences in working experience are determinant in explaining the gender pay gap of college graduates, for whom they can explain up to two thirds of the wage differences 20 years after childbirth. The role of experience in driving the gender wage differences of those with GCSE-level and A-levels qualifications is more modest, accounting for about one third of the gap 20 years after the first childbirth.
It is not only taking time out of paid work that matters, but crucially working part-time
after childbirth seems to hold back women’s wages. This is because extra experience in full-time work leads to higher hourly wages, whereas extra experience in part-time work does not.
A key challenge for future research, then, is to understand why part-time work shuts down wage progression so much. There are a number of possibilities, including less training provision, missing out on informal interactions and networking opportunities, and genuine constraints placed upon the build-up of skill by working fewer hours. Understanding this properly looks of great potential importance for policymakers who want to address the gender wage gap. Of course, our results also suggest that an alternative (or complementary) focus would be on understanding the causes of gender differences in rates of full-time work in the first place, such as the division of childcare responsibilities.
Our results also show that closing gender gaps in rates of full-time and part-time paid work, or narrowing the difference between the impacts of full-time and part-time paid work on wage progression, cannot be expected to close the gender wage gap fully. This is especially relevant when thinking about the relationship between the gender wage gap and poverty: among lower- educated people, there is already a relatively substantial gender wage gap before the first child is born, and gender differences in full-time and part-time paid work in the subsequent 20 years explain only a minority of the gender wage gap that has built up by that point. Previous research suggests that other contributing factors could include women being less likely to work in more productive firms, less likely to successfully bargain for higher wages within a given firm, and more likely to enter family-friendly occupations over high-paying ones.6 Better understanding of mechanisms such as these, and their underlying causes, is another key priority for further research.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at The gender pay gap in the UK: children and experience in work