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Women’s level of skills and qualifications surges ahead of men’s – Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC and UKCES Commissioner on the growing gender skills gap

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Frances O’Grady is a UKCES Commissioner and has been an active trade unionist and campaigner all her working life, working for the Transport and General Workers Union before joining the TUC (Trades Union Congress) in 1994 and going on to become its first female General Secretary in 2013. Frances helped to launch the TUC’s Organising Academy, which set out to attract a generation of new ‘young guns’ into the trade union movement and shift the ‘male, pale and stale’ stereotype to a profile that better fits a six million plus membership that is now 50:50 men and women. Frances has two adult children and lives in North London. 

Frances O'Grady
Frances O’Grady

New research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) shows a widening gender skills gap, as women leave their male counterparts behind. The report reveals that the gender gap is set to widen yet further over the next few years. 

The fact that skills levels are predicted to increase is welcome news. Skills matter – they increase a worker’s pay, their job satisfaction and boost the economy.

The increased disparity between men’s and women’s skill levels is concerning for both sexes. Men are finding it harder to get skilled jobs, while for many women their higher qualifications are not leading to better pay and jobs.

Tackling inequality – in skills, qualifications and pay, and for both sexes – is essential if we are to have a prosperous and stable future.

Key facts from the report:

  • By 2020, almost half (49%) of women will have degree-level qualifications, compared with 38% now.
  • Men’s qualifications also set to rise, but slower than women’s. The percentage of men with degree level skills is predicted to reach just over 44% by 2020.
  • Women are predicted to take two-thirds of the new high-skill jobs created over the next six years.
  • The report also compares the UK’s skill levels with other nations. The proportion of people in the UK holding a degree or equivalent is set to rise to almost half (48%) by 2020, raising the UK above America and most European nations.

The report provides an assessment of the level of skills held by the UK population compared with other member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It uses data on qualifications to project the skills of working age (19-64) people in the UK in 2020. The data is presented by qualification level and by gender.

Read the report at:






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