Gender pay gap falls below 10%
This is because women's earnings grew faster than men's. But before you pop open the champagne, let's not forget that women have been hardest hit by the government's austerity drive, and many are losing their jobs in the public sector, or are forced to work part-time because they can't find a full-time job.
Overall, the average annual salary in Britain climbed to £26,244 this year, up 1.4% from 2010, but with inflation at 5%, real wages are down more than 3.5%, according to the Office for National Statistics. A typical working week is 39 hours – but this masks huge differences, with one in ten people working an 11-hour day.
Men now earn 9.1% more than women per hour, excluding overtime. This is down from 10.1% in April 2010. Men were paid £13.11 an hour, up 0.8% from £13 in 2010, while women earned £11.91, a 1.9% increase. But it could still take a long time until women catch up with the male of the species.
Taking into account part-time work, women earn 19.5% less than men, because they are far more likely to be in part-time jobs, juggling work and children. Just 12% of men in the workforce work part-time, compared to 42% of women.
And on an annual basis, women in full-time work earn on average £5,409 less than men. The gap narrowed by just £179 from 2010, compared with £558 the previous year. At this rate women will have to wait until 2041 to get paid the same.
"Cuts to childcare have already forced 32,000 women out of the workforce and women's unemployment has soared to its highest level in 20 years. We need action on jobs as well as pay otherwise women are taking one step forward, but two steps back," said Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary and minister for women and equalities.
The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equality between women and men, pointed out that the gender pay gap in the private sector is still much greater than in the public sector. With the government taking an axe to the public sector and focusing on private sector growth, there is a "real risk" that the pay gap will widen again in the years ahead, it warned.
The figures also showed a widening gap between rich and poor. Between 2010 and 2011, the hourly full-time earnings of those in the top 10% grew by 1.8%, 18 times faster than those in the bottom decile who saw an increase of just 0.1%.
Directors and chief executives of major organisations enjoy the highest weekly earnings, at £1,956 a week, while the lowest-paid employees are school midday assistants, at just £233 a week. The findings come just as the annual banking bonus bonanza is about to begin.
London has the best-paid workers, at £651 a week, while Northern Ireland has the worst-paid employees, at £451. The area with the highest-paying jobs was, not surprisingly, the City of London (£981 a week full-time) and the district with the lowest-paid jobs was Torridge, where people earn just a third of that (£333).