How do women and men contribute to the Welsh economy, and how can an economic strategy reflect this?

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Over the coming weeks, the Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee will be holding a series of seminar sessions to gain different perspectives on what the Welsh Government’s new economic strategy should look like. The first session, on 2 February, will look at how an economic strategy could meet the needs of women and men in Wales.  Ahead of this, here are five of the key differences between the roles that women and men play in the Welsh economy that are likely to inform the session.

Women are more likely to work now than 25 years ago, although they are still less likely to work than men

When figures were first published by the Office for National Statistics


Image from Google by Pixnio. Licensed under Creative Commons.

(ONS) in March to May 1992, 58.9% of women aged 16-64 in Wales were in employment, compared to the most recent figure of 69.9% in September to November 2016.  Over the same period, the equivalent figure for men increased from 71.7% to 75.1%.


The UK Government’s Women’s Business Council has estimated that equalising the economic participation rates of women and men could grow the UK economy by more than 10% by 2030.

Almost three quarters of part-time workers are women

ONS figures show there are 286,000 women working part-time in Wales, and they make up 73% of all part-time workers.  In the year to September 2016, 85% of working men have full-time jobs, and 15% work part-time.  In contrast, 57% of working women have full-time jobs, while 43% work part-time.

The Women Adding Value to the Economy project found that part-time work is strongly correlated with occupations that predominantly employ women, such as personal services, sales and care occupations.  They found that in Wales, at least 40% of these jobs are likely to be offered on a part-time basis, restricting opportunities to access full-time work.

On average women are paid less than men per hour, and are more likely to be paid less than the living wage

There are two common ways of comparing differences in the pay of female and male workers – both of these show that on average women are paid less per hour than men in both Wales and the UK.

  • The headline measure used by the Office for National Statistics compares median hourly earnings of women and men working full-time, excluding overtime. Using this measure, in 2016 the gender pay gap in Wales was 7.5% for full-time workers, below the UK figure of 9.4%.
  • Another way used to measure the gender pay gap is to look at median hourly earnings excluding overtime for all working women and men, as this takes into account that women are considerably more likely to work part-time than men. Using this measure, in 2016 the gender pay gap in Wales was 15.7% for all workers, below the UK figure of 18.1%.

The implications of this difference in pay are illustrated by women being more likely than men to earn below the living wage. Data from the ONS shows that in 2016, based on the hourly living wage of £8.25 as at April 2016, 29% of women (172,000) working in Wales earned below the living wage, compared to 20.5% (113,000) of men.  Part-time workers are much more likely to earn below the living wage than full-time workers.  In 2016, 43.2% of female part-time workers (109,000) earned below the living wage, compared to 53.2% of men working part-time (39,000).

Women and men tend to work in different sectors of the Welsh economy, and are affected differently by Welsh Government sector prioritisation

Male and female employment are concentrated in different sectors of the Welsh economy. In the year to September 2016, half of all working women were employed in public administration, education and health, comprising 72% of workers in this group.  In contrast, men are employed across different industries, and represent more than 70% of workers in the agriculture and fishing, energy and water, manufacturing, construction and transport and communications industrial groupings.

Women are less likely than men to work in a Welsh Government priority sector, and represent a third of workers employed in these sectors.  The Welsh Government’s current economic strategy, Economic Renewal: a new direction, developed a sector-based approach to target business support to 6 key sectors, subsequently increased to 9. The percentage of female workers in these sectors is set out in the graph below.


Source: Welsh Government, Priority Sector Statistics 2016 (table 3.6)

Women are less likely to start or run a business than men

The UK Government’s Small Business Survey 2015 found that 23% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Wales are women-led businesses. Self-employed women represent 31% of all self-employed people in Wales, and men are twice as likely to be self-employed as women. In the year ending September 2016, 63,600 women (9.4% of working women) aged 16+ in Wales were self-employed, compared to 138,400 men (18.6% of working men).

A number of challenges for women seeking to start a business have been identified by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Chwarae Teg and Women’s Business Council:

  • Access to business support and finance: Small women-led businesses are seen by the FSB as less likely to access finance than male-led equivalents and on average begin their business with a third less capital.
  • Self-perception and skills: The FSB and Women’s Business Council found that women are less likely than men to think they possess the skills needed to start a business, and that a number of barriers potentially exist to addressing this.
  • Perceptions and discrimination: 33% of FSB survey respondents reported experiencing discrimination based on their gender.

You can watch the Committee meeting live on Senedd TV at 2pm on 2 February.

Article by Gareth Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service