Harassment, anxiety and debt: The working life of young British women

More than 50 per cent say job has negative impact on mental health

Harassment, anxiety and debt: The working life of young British women
A woman runs past fencing painted in the colours of the British union flag in east London, on Feb. 18, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Young women in Britain are paid less and harassed more at work than men, with most reporting that their job negatively affects their mental health, a survey found on Thursday.

Almost one in five young women surveyed in England and Wales said they were paid less than male colleagues at a similar level, according to the charity Young Women's Trust, despite government efforts to close the gender pay gap.

Nearly one in four young women also said they had been sexually harassed at work, but only one-third of these reported it to bosses or human resources. Many said they did not know how or feared losing their job.

"Sadly, even a hundred years after the first women gaining the power to vote, it's still a rich man's world," said the trust's chief executive Carole Easton.

"Young women's treatment at work, pay and well-being are trailing far behind those of young men."

Although Britain outlawed sex discrimination in the 1970s, women are under-represented in senior positions and gender pay inequality remains a persistent problem.

Men on average earn 18.4 per cent more than women, according to government data published last year after legislation forcing companies with more than 250 workers — covering almost half of Britain's workforce — to publish their average pay gap.

Women were also more likely to be offered zero-hours contracts and their average debts have increased over the last year, found the survey of more than 4,000 people aged 18 to 30.

Four in ten women said it was a "real struggle" to make their money last to the end of the month, compared to three in ten men in the same age group.

Worries over work were affecting women's quality of life, with more than 50 per cent saying their job had a negative impact on their mental health, compared to about 40 per cent of men.

Women had little hope of swift change, with only half believing gender discrimination in Britain will be a thing of the past by the time they are 40.

"Harassment, discrimination, anxiety and debt are facts of life for far too many young women today," Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, Britain's leading women's rights charity, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We need to end the misogyny and harassment they experience and give them fair pay at work by ending pay and maternity discrimination."

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