In March 1990, the latest date for which statistics are available, the average weekly industrial wage was £255.23 for men and £153.34 for women.
I am aware that there is a significant imbalance between male and female earnings and I am not satisfied with the gap that exists. The differences in industrial earnings result from a wide range of factors. These include wage rates but, also, hours worked, overtime payments, shift or unsocial hours premia, payment by results, bonuses for output levels and payments for length of service. It is as well to recognise that industrial wage statistics cover only a percentage of women who are at work and describe a situation where there is a tendency for women to be segregated into certain low pay areas and confined to a restricted range of jobs.
While I want to make a number of changes to the employment equality legislation to simplify it and make it more effective, I am attaching equal importance to improving access for women to a wider range of jobs. The employment of women in a wider range of jobs and at higher levels is essential to reducing the imbalance between male and female earnings. In this regard several steps are being taken, particularly in the areas of improved training and access to employment and positive action.
I am particularly anxious that positive action programmes are implemented in both the public and private sectors. Towards this end in conjunction with the EEA during 1990, I launched the Equality Focus Award Scheme to encourage employers to implement positive action initiatives. The first awards were presented last week.
I am also monitoring positive action policies in State-sponsored bodies. The Employment Equality Agency are actively continuing their work in the area of promoting positive action. I am confident that these and other initiatives will help to improve the situation.