IT’S half a century since the Equal Pay Act enshrined the right to equal wages for equal work in law.

But women continue to be at an economic disadvantage, taking home lower wages and shouldering the greater part of the care burden.

The World Economic Forum warns it could take another 100 years to close the global gender pay gap.

We take a look at the figures on women’s equality in Southampton.

Average earnings

The latest Office for National Statistics figures estimate women in Southampton earned 16.5% less than men per hour in 2019 – ​compared to the UK average of 17.3%.

This is the median difference, a measure which takes the middle of a range of figures, to exclude very low or high earners.

The gender pay gap is partly attributed to the fact women are more likely to work part-time – 40% of female workers in Southampton did so in September last year, compared to ​16% of men.

But the gap is actually bigger among full-time workers in Southampton.

Women earn an average of 21.2% less per year than men, with a median salary of £23,900 in 2019, compared to £30,315 for men.

Gender equality charity the Fawcett Society said we should not be complacent about gender pay gaps, which can be closed if employers show a willingness to make changes.

“Employers should be more open about their pay gaps and let local women know what they are doing to tackle them by publishing action plans,” it said.

The pensions gap

The pay gap follows women into their retirement, with experts highlighting how a penalty for working part-time is “short-changing” women.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show men in Southampton collected an average of £27.51 more than women every week from their State Pension during August last year.

The average male pensioner took home £170.77 per week compared to £143.26 for females – meaning women receive 16% less.

Research has also highlighted a gender gap when it comes to private workplace pensions.

Thinktank the Pensions Policy Institute says women are being hit by a penalty on part-time work while they care for children or elderly relatives.

“The result is both interrupted pension contributions and limited earning opportunities,” it said.

​Some poorer pensioners can apply for Pension Credit, an income-related benefit which tops up their weekly income to a minimum amount.

In Southampton, 5,457 people were claiming Pension Credit in August, 64% of them women, reflecting a population of female retirees with lower state and private pensions.

Who cares?

The most recent localised figures on unpaid care come from the 2011 census, which asked Southampton residents about the care they provided for disabled or sick family members or friends, excluding ordinary child care.

Women made up 57% of the 20,243 people who said they provided at least some unpaid care.

Overall, 10% of women said they were carers compared to 8% of men.

While most carers provided between one and 19 hours of care every week, women made up 59% of those who said they did at least 50 hours per week.

It was a similar story across the country, with women accounting for 58% of unpaid carers, and 60% of those doing 50 hours or more of caring every week.