The gender pay gap for full-time workers in the UK has increased slightly to 8.9%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The new figure compares with 8.6% last year, which was the lowest since records began in 1997, when it stood at 17.4%.
The difference in pay of all men and women workers, including those in part-time jobs, has fallen from 17.8% in 2018 to 17.3% in 2019, and continues to fall, the report said.
— Office for National Statistics (@ONS) October 29, 2019
ONS statistician Roger Smith said the gender pay gap increase was not “statistically significant”, adding it is “too early to say” if it marks a change in trend.
He said: “We also saw an increase in 2013 followed by a return to downward trend in subsequent years. However, the downward trend is a slow one regardless.”
For people under 40 years of age, the pay gap for full-time employees is now “close to zero”, the ONS said.
However, the pay gap among 40 to 49-year-olds is 11.4% and more than 15% for those aged 50 to 59 and above 60 – a figure which has not declined “strongly over time”, the report said.
ONS said the difference is due to women over the age 40 being “more likely” to work in lower-paid jobs and are less likely to work as managers, compared to younger women.
Median weekly earnings for full-time employees has increased by 2.9% to £585 from last year, but after inflation is taken into account, the increase is just 0.9%.
However, median weekly earnings in real terms are still 2.9% lower than the peak in 2008, which was £603 in 2019 prices.
Weekly earnings for women peaked for those aged 40 to 49 in 2019 for the first time, the report said.
Full-time weekly earnings were the highest in the City of London at £1,052 and lowest in Newark and Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, at £431.
The number of full-time employees who experienced a real-term pay decrease fell from 43.3% in 2018 to 35.7% in 2019, the report said.
Speaking about the latest figures, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it would take “decades” to close the gender pay gap at the current rate.
She said: “Government must pick up the pace. It’s clear that publishing gender pay gaps isn’t enough on its own.
“Companies must also be legally required to explain how they’ll close them.”
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “Progress to close the gender pay gap is dismally slow and at this rate it will take 60 years to eradicate it.
“Too many women are trapped in low paid part-time work or locked out of non-traditional sectors while others experience pay or pregnancy discrimination.”
Equality and Human Rights Commission chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “As we enter the third year of reporting, the attention really needs to shift to action.
“It should be mandatory for employers to publish, alongside their pay gap data, plans with specific targets and deadlines.”
Jonathan Cribb, senior research economist at IFS and an author of the report, said: “The level of earnings for employees are the single most important determinant of household incomes and material living standard for most people in the UK.
“That is why no real growth in 11 years for average earnings is such an important trend.”