Just 30% of Britons correctly chose the right definition of the term

The gender pay gap is the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation or industry or country. The government has recently taken action to try and close it by making it a legal requirement for companies with 250 or more employees to publish theirgender pay gap.

But despite the increased focus on the measure a new YouGov survey reveals that most Brits don’t actually know what the gender pay gap is.

Most Brits mix up equal pay and the gender pay gap

Asked whether they thought the gender pay gap was “women as a whole being paid less on average than men as a whole” or “women being paid less than men for doing the same job”, only 30% correctly chose the former option. By contrast, close to two thirds (64%) incorrectly chose the latter answer, which is specifically about equal pay (in this the failure to do so).

A further 1% answered “something else” and the remaining 5% answered “don’t know”.

This is despite the fact that 90% of Brits say they have heard of the gender pay gap, and 83% saying they believe they understand “very well” or “quite well” what the gender pay gap is.

Of those who have heard of the gender pay gap, only 31% chose the right answer. Likewise among those who said they thought they understood the term “very well” only 33% chose the right answer, as did 31% of those thinking they understood the term “quite well”.

Men are more likely to have chosen the correct answer than women. One in three men (35%) chose the correct answer, compared to only one in four women (24%). By contrast, 70% of women chose the unequal pay definition, as did 58% of men. (Men and women answered “don’t know” at the same rate – 5%).

Tanya Abraham, Associate Research Director at YouGov: “The lack of understanding of thegender pay gap, and how it differs from equal pay, presents an obvious issue for campaigners seeking to address the issue. Where equal pay is illegal and easy to spot, the gender pay gap is a more subtle problem relating to everything from increasing take-up of shared parental leave to dismantling gender stereotypes around different types of work.

While the former is simply a matter of workers’ rights, the latter requires effort from government, employers, but also education and civil society to tackle. If gender pay gap campaigners seek to make progress, one of the first things they need to ensure is that everyone understands the challenge at hand.”