20 January 2017

One fifth (20%) of men aged between 25 and 55, with low hourly wages, now work part-time — an increase of 400% in the last 20 years. Among middle-wage and high-wage men, the proportion working part-time is below 5%.

The combination of low hourly wages and low hours of work increasingly go together, according to a new report, and is now an important driver of pay inequality between men.

Published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the report reveals that the dramatic rise in the proportion of low-wage men working part time (fewer than 30 hours a week) is the result of a steady trend — not the recent recession.

The rise of weekly earnings inequality among men is partly because the hourly wages of high-earners grew faster than those of middle-earners, the report explains, and partly because men with low hourly wages are now working fewer hours per week.

The widespread growth of part-time work among men on low hourly wages is widespread: it is found across the age spectrum and affects single men, men in couples and those with and without children.

With male earnings still the largest source of income for working households, the rise of this inequality in weekly earnings has helped drive an overall increase in household pay inequality.

The IFS points out that "an increasing tendency for high- (and low-) earning men and high- (and low-) earning women to be partnered with each other also contributed".

Inequality in women’s weekly pay has fallen, the report notes, as the proportion of women working part-time has dropped, especially among those with low hourly wages (the opposite of the trend for men).

The IFS working paper "Two decades of income inequality in Britain: the role of wages, household earnings and redistribution" is available at http://bit.ly/2irg1Q2.