3. Economic participation for all

Third, society should give every person the opportunity to play a part in strengthening Britain’s economy

It is a significant challenge to:

  • Close the gender pay gap faster and further

The gap between men’s and women’s average earnings has shrunk continuously over the past three decades, but despite this progress, it has never threatened to drop below 10%, and progress today appears to be grinding to a halt. Many of the factors that may contribute to the pay gap are still evident – such as the virtual invisibility of women in the boardroom (where they hold barely a tenth of the most senior roles). 1

A lifetime of lower incomes may mean that women are more likely to end up in poverty as pensioners, and more likely to live in overcrowded housing. Conversely, better use of women’s skills could be worth in the region of £15bn - £23bn to the economy each year.2

  • Close the ethnic and religious employment and pay gaps faster and further.

People from some ethnic minorities and religious groups are significantly less likely than average to be in work, and are paid less than average when they are in work. One in 4 Bangladeshi and Pakistani women work, compared with nearly 3 in 4 White British women. Chinese men earn 11% less than might be expected, given their qualifications, age and occupation and only 47% of Muslim men and 24% of Muslim women are employed. These gaps impose a cost not only on individual and families, but on the economy as a whole. While it is hard to be categorical, estimates from the National Audit Office in 2008 suggested that the overall cost to the economy could be in the region of £8.6bn each year.3

  • Close the employment gap for people with disabilities

Work is more than an opportunity to earn a living; it provides a means of meeting and interacting with others, and it can increase an individual’s sense of health and well-being. 50% of disabled adults are in work, compared to 79% of non-disabled adults. Some evidence suggests that disabled people are more likely to experience discrimination and bullying in the workplace than average. Removing such barriers and increasing disabled people’s participation in the workplace might benefit individuals and the economy as a whole.

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This challenge is illustrated by the following case studies:


1. Sealy, R., Singh, V. and Vinnicombe, S. 2009: "Female FTSE 100 Report", Cranfield School of Business.

2. The Women and Work Commission 2006: "Shaping a Fairer Future", London: GEO.

3. National Audit Office 2008: "Increasing Employment Rates for Ethnic Minorities", London: The Stationery Office

Last Updated: 07 Oct 2010