You might expect slow and steady progress in narrowing the gap between men’s and women’s earnings – but history has less straightforward lessons.
Findings from our gender wage gap project show that the differences between men’s and women’s earnings have decreased, but the progress has slowed in recent years. Dramatic change only took place with major events, such as war or a big policy initiative. Later cohorts face better conditions, but the gap is still large and, at our estimated rate of convergence, it will not close for another 40 years.
The covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted labour market inequalities and raised questions about the future progression towards gender equality. Some expect that more widespread flexible working and normalisation of working from home will lead to greater equality. But others argue that progress will be reversed for women, jeopardised by taking a bigger share of housework and childcare during lockdown.