Occupational segregation, gender pay parity and social care

Employer advice

According to PwC’s Women in Work report, social care has a pay gap of 17%, half that of financial services industry who has the highest pay gap in the UK but the social care sector is still on par with the UK’s average percentage for gap in pay.

Social care is a perfect example of how occupational segregation – where a single gender predominantly work together in a cluster such as education for women and finance for men - has led to gender pay parity in the UK. What can the social care industry do to transform this female dominant sector into one that is equal in terms of gender working within it and the salary that is offered?

By 2025 it has been predicted that 1 million more workers will be needed in social care in order to care for the growing elderly population in the UK. The social care industry is already in an employee deficit as there are currently 90,000 open vacancies across the sector at any one time and this is only set to increase. One reason for such a candidate shortfall could be due to the stereotype of social care being a female led industry and with the split being 82% female to 18% male workers one can see how the stereotype emerged. Another reason why fewer men are attracted to social care could be due to salary. PwC noted the correlation between lower paid jobs and the dominance of women workers within them whilst industries that are typically male such as construction and mining are in a higher salary bracket.

To shake off the stigma attached to working in social care salary needs to be addressed as it is in part acting as a barrier too for attracting and retaining skilled employees.

Examining gender pay parity on a national level its forecast that at the current rate of equal pay being tackled the salary gap will eventually be closed by 2041. With a need for candidates now in social care in order to look after older generations over the next 50 years, action needs to be quickened.

Social care may not be able to provide higher salaries due to current pressures on the UK health service however creating career plans and developing skills amongst a female workforce cannot only retain talented employees but begin to close the gap on salaries as women move further up the career ladder. This will inevitably lead to being seen as an attractive employer that values their staff and wants to better them both financially and career wise.  Another way to tackle both the pay gap and increasing male workers in social care is for employers to actively encourage and promote shared parental leave. Offering the flexibility for parents to choose who returns to work or looks after their child can allow women to continue their careers, alleviating the pressure from men to be the bread-winners and offering them the opportunity to work in social care, giving back to the community whilst still supporting and having an active part in their family life.  Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society believes the UK Government should enforce this policy as ‘fathers want to spend more time caring for their children but our outdated systems holds them back.’ If social care were to become activists of shared parental leave and career development, the stigma of the industry could disappear and with it the gender pay gap too, a lot sooner than 2041.