Britons among least likely to prioritise gender pay gap in COVID recovery

Britons are among those least likely to prioritise tackling the gender pay gap right now as society rebuilds from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new global study to mark International Women’s Day.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver Managing Director, Public Affairs
  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Public Affairs
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Despite previous research showing women have been worse hit economically by the crisis, 28% of the British public say closing the gender pay gap is important and should be one of our top priorities right now – much lower than similar western European nations, such as France (51%), Spain (46%) and Italy (44%), and lower than the majority of the other countries included in the study, which are all more likely to see this issue as a greater priority at the moment.

But the 28-country study, by Ipsos MORI and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, found Britons are, on the whole, most likely to be sympathetic to the need to address the gender pay gap – although notable minorities are not:

  • A majority (54%) say concerns about the gender pay gap are a response to a real problem, but nearly one in five (18%) think they’re an example of political correctness going too far. By 48% to 61%, men are less likely than women to see such concerns as a response to a genuine problem. 
  •  One in 10 Britons (10%) say they think reports about the gender pay gap in the media are fake news – compared with 44% who think such reports are telling the truth. One in seven (15%) men believe such reports are fake news, more than double the proportion of women who say the same (6%).
  •  The majority support greater transparency over pay, with 54% saying that people should have the right to know what other colleagues doing the same work are paid – more than double the 23% who disagree. 50% of men and 59% of women support this proposal.

The findings come as UK firms have effectively been given six extra months to report their gender pay gaps because of the pandemic, despite the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee recommending that the usual reporting deadline of 4 April be maintained. 

How the COVID recovery can support women

Across the 28 countries surveyed, 40% of people say more flexible working practices, such as working from home or part-time, are one of the most important things to help ensure the recovery from COVID addresses issues facing women – the top answer given by both men and women.

More support for women and girls who face violence and abuse (36%) and better access to healthcare services (33%) are seen as the next most important globally.

Having more women making decisions in business and government is viewed as comparatively less crucial, with 21% citing this as a key way to support women post-pandemic.

In Britain, flexible working (46%), better mental health support services (36%) and better social care for the elderly or vulnerable (31%) are seen as most important.

Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, said: 

It's been said that were at a coronavirus crossroads: we face a choice between building back better or allowing progress on gender equality to stall or even be reversed. As the world decides which path to take, the good news is that the vast majority of people recognise that closing the gender pay gap is important. The bad news is that in many countries, people are less clear it should be a top priority right now, as we begin to reopen and rebuild society. But if we’re to have any chance of ensuring women don’t lose out further because of the crisis, we need to keep this issue high on the agenda.

Kelly Beaver, managing director of Ipsos MORI Public Affairs, said:

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women has been much talked about, and it’s clear that gender inequality remains an issue which concerns both men and women across the world. But what these findings show is that for many people, beating the pandemic is their first priority before wanting to turn to inequality issues like the gender pay gap. As we do start to beat this pandemic, however, we need to ensure that societies around the world begin to refocus on important issues like gender inequality and that women are not overlooked in the recovery.

Technical note

 These are the results of a 28-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 20,520 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Israel, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and 16-74 in 21 other markets between 22 January and 5 February 2021.

The sample consists of approximately 1,000 individuals in each of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the U.S., and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Chile, Hungary, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey.

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S. can be taken as representative of their general adult population under the age of 75.

The samples in Brazil, Chile, China, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these markets should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.

The data is weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data. 

Where results do not sum to 100 or the “difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don't know” or not stated responses.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on Ipsos' use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website. The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver Managing Director, Public Affairs
  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Public Affairs

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