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Wales Jumps to Second Place in PwC’s Women in Work Index

According to PwC’s Women in Work index, Wales is a better place for women to work than the other devolved nations or any English region bar the south-west.

Its ranking jumped from seventh in last year’s index to second this year, driven by improvements across each of the report’s indicators – female labour force participation rate, participation rate gap, female unemployment rate, female full-time employment rate, and gender pay gap. Wales’ aggregated score rose from 35.4 to 43.3, which is only marginally behind the South West, which scored 44.0.

In particular, its improvement was driven by a fall in the gap between male and female labour force participation rates from 9% to 5%; female participation rose by one percentage point and male participation fell by the same margin.

John-Paul Barker, Market Lead for PwC in Wales, said:

Wales’ improvement in the index is heartening and should be lauded; it rose through the rankings against the other nations and regions in the UK at a time when the UK as a whole was performing extremely strongly.

“But we can’t rest on our laurels. The transition to net zero will be a generational shift in the way our economy and our workforce is structured; if managed properly, it presents a significant opportunity to rethink and reset. The index identifies that the growth in jobs as we transition to a green economy will be concentrated in sectors that are currently male-dominated: utilities, construction and manufacturing. Without concerted efforts from policy-makers, education providers and businesses to upskill women and girls, they won’t be equipped to benefit from the job opportunities created by net zero.”

The big picture

The Women in Work index analyses data from 33 countries across the OECD. It found that:

  • 5.1m more women were unemployed and 5.2m fewer women participated in the labour force across the OECD because of the damage caused by COVID-19 in 2020, exacerbating the existing ‘motherhood penalty’ faced by women in work
  • PwC’s Women In Work Index fell for the first time in its ten-year history, with progress towards gender equality reversed by at least two years
  • UK’s position on the Index rose from 16th to 9th in 2020, strongly outperforming other OECD countries, and placing it almost 10% above the OECD average in 2020. This is the largest annual improvement the UK has achieved in the 10-year history of the Index – but inequalities faced by women from ethnic minorities increased.
  • The transition of the energy sector to net zero will widen the gender employment gap across the OECD by 1.7 percentage points by 2030

The Covid-19 pandemic has set back progress towards gender equality in work across the OECD by at least two years, according to PwC’s analysis.

After a decade of slow but consistent gains for women across the OECD, the Index fell for the first time in its ten year history (by half a point between 2019 and 2020), confirming last year’s predictions that women’s jobs would be hit harder than men’s jobs across the OECD by Covid-19.

The two main factors contributing to the fall were higher female unemployment and lower labour force participation rates during 2020. OECD data proves last year’s estimates that women took on more unpaid childcare responsibilities than men during the pandemic, causing them to leave the workforce at a higher rate. Mothers were three times more likely than fathers to report taking on either the majority, or all, of the additional unpaid care work created by school or childcare facility closures.

Explaining the UK’s rise

The UK’s position on the Index rose from 16th to 9th in 2020, strongly outperforming other OECD countries, and placing it almost 10% above the OECD average in 2020. This is the largest annual improvement the UK has achieved in the 10-year history of the Index.

Larice Stielow, Senior Economist at PwC, says this result needs to be treated with caution:

“We must be careful in interpreting this result as a real benefit to women’s employment outcomes.  A key driver was a temporary fall in men’s median weekly earnings, likely due to the short term effects of the pandemic on wages and the furlough, skewing down earnings.

Men’s earnings have since rebounded, and the gender pay gap in the UK has widened again by 2 percentage points, back up to 14%. However, what is encouraging is that women’s median earnings continued to rise during the pandemic and suggests gender equality in the UK continues on an upward trajectory.”

Women may miss out on new green jobs

Furthermore, PwC’s analysis looks towards the future composition of work across the OECD, as the energy sector (responsible for 35% of all carbon emissions globally) transitions to net zero. There will be net job creation across OECD economies – with new green jobs concentrated in the utilities, construction and manufacturing sectors. These three sectors are all heavily male-dominated – currently employing 31% of the male workforce across the OECD, but just over 11% of the female workforce.

If nothing is done to improve women’s representation in these sectors, PwC estimates that the employment gap between men and women across the OECD – which measures the additional number of men in employment, expressed as a percentage of the number of employed women – will widen by 1.7 percentage points by 2030 (rising from 20.8% in 2020 to 22.5% in 2030).

Business News Wales