Education news

Disadvantaged women face pay penalty due to school subject choices, report says

The study looked at the course selection of pupils who finished their GCSEs between 2001/02 and 2004/05

GIRLS from disadvantaged backgrounds are picking courses at the age of 16 which can later leave them in lower paid jobs than men, a report has found.

Regardless of how good their GCSE grades were, they are most likely to opt for courses which will see them working in lower paid jobs including retail, childcare and social care, according to a report from the Social Mobility Commission.

Disadvantaged males were more likely to pick technical subjects such as engineering and IT which could lead to higher earnings.

Disadvantaged young white women along with both disadvantaged men and women from black Caribbean backgrounds were the most likely to take low-earning courses, according to Dr Luke Sibieta who co-authored the report.

It looked at the course selection of students who finished their GCSEs between 2001/02 and 2004/05 and tracked their earnings up to the age of 30.

Only 27 per cent of women and 22 per cent of men from disadvantaged black Caribbean backgrounds had taken courses that led to the top 50 per cent of earnings.

There were 24 per cent of disadvantaged white-British women who picked courses that led to salaries in the top 50 per cent, which compares with 33 per cent of disadvantaged white-British men.

Dr Sibieta said the courses youngsters take as 16-year-olds can have "a large bearing on their future economic opportunities".

Work needed to be done to tackle inequalities in educational results, to provide effective careers guidance and positive role models before they reach that age, he added.

Half of disadvantaged women picked courses ranked in the bottom 25 per cent of earnings, which compares with 31 per cent of men from similar backgrounds, the report found.

The subject choices of disadvantaged women explained about 10 per cent of the earnings gap they faced compared with more advantaged men.

The researchers found that 80 per cent of A-level courses could be linked to well-paid careers in the top 25 per cent of earnings.

Those who opted for a mix of an academic and technical qualification could be among the 70 per cent workers with combined courses which ranked in the top 50 per cent of earnings.

In contrast, technical qualifications were mostly linked with low earnings as 62 per cent of classroom-based technical qualifications and 40 per cent of apprenticeships led students on a path to the bottom 25 per cent of earnings.

Alastair Da Costa, the social mobility commissioner for adult skills and further education, described the gender pay gap between disadvantaged men and women as "stark".

"There is no doubt growing up in deprivation, especially for women, has an enduring impact on early career earnings," he said.

"It is particularly worrying that women appear to choose subjects that lead them to a smaller wage packet than men."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Education news