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Wage inequality for men has risen, study finds

In the past 20 years there has been a fourfold increase in the number of men in low-paid part-time work, according to a new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

The research institute said on Friday last week that one in five low-paid men aged 25 to 55 in the UK now works part-time, compared with only one in 20 two decades ago.

This is the result of a steady trend and not just the recent recession, the IFS noted.

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

In contrast, inequality in women’s weekly pay has declined as the proportion of women working part-time has fallen, especially among those with low hourly wages (the opposite of the trend for men).

Jonathan Cribb, an author of the report and a senior research economist at the IFS, commented: “The number of low-wage men working part time has increased sharply over the last 20 years. To understand the drivers of inequality in the UK it is vital to understand the growing association between low hourly wages and low hours of work among men.”

Combining the pay of men and women who live together, inequality in total earnings across working households has also risen, the IFS found. This is primarily because of the rise in male earnings inequality, since male earnings remain the largest income source for working households on average.

Meanwhile, the figures for total net household incomes (including benefits and after taxes) across the whole population, rather than just pay among working households, show less inequality. According to the IFS, key reasons for this include tax credits boosting the incomes of low earners, a catch-up of pensioners with the rest of the population, and falling rates of household worklessness.

However, the research also revealed that the top 1% saw their share of net total household income increase from 6% in 1994-95 to 8% in 2014-15.