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Gender pay gap starts from graduation, data suggests

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Women are more likely to be in work or studying after graduation than men, but earn less from the very start of their careers, official data indicates.

Statistics show female graduates take home about £1,600 less than their male peers a year after graduation.

Department for Education (DfE) statisticians said this gender gap continued and widened over time.

By April, UK companies with 250 or more staff will have to publish their gender pay gap data on a government website.

The latest DfE figures, which cover the financial year 2015-16, are based on data collected on a number of groups of students at different points after graduation.

The data shows:

  • a year after graduating, the women were earning about £1,600 less than their male counterparts, with a typical salary of £18,300, compared with £19,900 for men
  • three years after graduation, the women typically earned £21,800, compared with £24,200 for the men
  • five years post-graduation, the figures were £24,500 for the women and £27,800 for the men
  • at 10 years, typical salaries were £27,100 for the women and £35,100 for the men

"At one, three, five and 10 years after graduation, male earnings exceed female earnings," DfE statisticians said.

"The difference between male and female median earnings also increases with years after graduation – male earnings were 9% larger than female earnings one year after graduation, 11% larger at three years after graduation, 13% larger five years after graduation and 30% larger at 10 years after graduation."

Some variations in typical pay would be down to differences between the sexes in part-time work, DfE statisticians said.

Working or studying

The data also shows the female graduates were more likely to be in further study or employment than their male peers.

In 2015-16, 87.6% of UK women who gained their first degree from English universities and colleges were in further study or employment a year after graduating, compared with 84.6% of men.

For those women who had graduated three years before, the figure was 87.6%, for five years it was 86.2% and for 10 years, it was 82.8%.

By comparison, the figures for men were:

  • three years – 85.1%
  • five years – 84.3%
  • 10 years – 82.3%.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "No woman should be held back just because of her gender.

"We now have the lowest gender pay gap for full-time workers on record, and more women in work than ever before.

"But we know there's more to do – that's why the UK is one of the first countries in the world to require employers to publish their gender pay and gender bonus gap."

Ethnicity and subject

The DfE data also gives details of pay among different ethnic groups and among graduates who studied different subjects at university.

It shows that one, three and five years after graduation, the Chinese graduates had the highest median earnings, with average salaries of £20,600, £25,000 and £27,000 respectively.

However, by 10 years after graduation, the Chinese graduates, at £32,000, are nudged off the top slot by the graduates from "other Asian backgrounds" with median earnings of £34,300.

In terms of subjects, after one, three, five and 10 years after graduation, the graduates in medicine and dentistry had the highest earnings.

The graduates with creative arts and design degrees had the lowest earnings.

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