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Gender pay gap falls to 9.6%, says ONS

The pay gap between men and women has shrunk from 10.5% of men's full-time hourly earnings to 9.6%.

The figures have been published today by The Office of National Statistics (ONS) in its annual survey of hours and earnings.

The figures also showed the average annual earnings of full-time workers rose by 1.4% to £26,500 in the year to April 2012.

The ONS figures found between 2011 and 2012 the gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for full-time employees in the bottom 10% increased by 2.3% to £7.16 per hour. This compared with a fall of 0.2% in the top 10% per hour.

Full-time staff in the public sector saw their weekly pay rise by 1.6% to £565, while those in the private sector saw their earnings go up by 1.5% to £479.

The ONS said:"The compositions of the public and private sectors are different.

"Consequently, differences in gross weekly earnings do not reveal differences in rates of pay for comparable jobs.

"For example, many of the lowest-paid occupations, such as bar and restaurant staff, hairdressers, elementary sales occupations and cashiers, exist primarily in the private sector, while there are a larger proportion of graduate-level and professional occupations in the public sector," the ONS added.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and CEO of the online freelance marketplace PeoplePerHour, said: "Women may be starting to win the battle of the sexes, but the workforce as a whole is losing the battle with inflation. Wage increases are not keeping pace with the rising cost of living.

"Slowly but surely, women are changing the face of Britain's workforce. The part-time jobs market isn't just dominated by women, it is being reshaped by women.

Thrasyvoulou added: "With employer confidence still fragile, in many parts of the country, part-time jobs are being created at a faster rate than full-time work. Women's greater willingness to embrace flexible working will allow them to benefit more than men - helping boost female employment, and ultimately earnings."