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Why is there a pocket money pay gap?


How do you decide how much pocket money to give to your child? Most of us base it on their age. We might consider how much they need to spend each week, or whether they help out around the house. Our data also suggests that there are some regional differences, with children who live in London and the South East earning the most.

But we were surprised to discover there’s a 5% pocket money pay gap between boys and girls aged 8-15. This means, over the course of the year, boys earn an average of £440 while girls earn £420. That extra £20 per year equates to 40p per week, which is a lot in pocket money terms.

“While it’s surprising that the gender pay gap starts at the age of eight, we don’t see this as a deliberate decision by parents,” says Louise Hill, Founder and COO of gohenry. “No one is consciously paying boys more than girls, particularly not in the same family. It’s really shocking to see it reflected in the data.”

Pocket money pay gap scales

Earning power

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, the gender pay gap among full time employees stands at 8.9%. This has dropped by 3.3% since 2009, but has barely changed since 2012.

Simone Gnessen, founder of Wise Monkey Financial Coaching and co-author of Sheconomics, explains that women tend to earn more than men at the start of their careers – but their earning power slows as they enter their thirties, while men’s remains steady.

Research suggests that the gender pay gap grows quickly during the years when women are most likely to have children, take maternity leave or change their working hours. This goes some way to explain why the gender pay gap is almost zero for people under 40, but rises to more than 15% among people in their fifties.

However, this doesn’t help to explain the pocket money pay gap, which peaks at the age of 11 when boys earn an annual average of £404, compared to girls’ annual income of £371.

So we wondered if boys earn more simply because they’re more likely to boost their pocket money with paid tasks. Or could it be that we’re conditioned to give boys the more physical jobs, like mowing the lawn, washing the car and painting and decorating? These traditionally gendered tasks tend to take longer to complete and require more effort. As a result, they’re often better paid.

Laura, from London, admits that her 10 year-old son, Tom, often earns more pocket money than his twin sister Sophie – but only because he completes more of his weekly tasks.

She says, “They have the opportunity to earn the same amount, but Tom completes his tasks every week and Sophie sometimes doesn’t. For Tom, it’s all about the money – he often earns 50p or £1 more.”

While this is one real world example, it’s unlikely that boys’ earning power is the only explanation for the pocket money pay gap.

So what else is going on?

Money confidence

Experts believe there’s an important reason why women earn less than men – and it all comes down to confidence.

“Women are not good at asking for money,” says Simone Gnessen. “Men are much more confident – even overconfident – in the workplace, and they’re also more likely to ask for pay rises. Girls and women are conditioned to do this with less confidence – if they do it at all.”

We asked the gohenry community about the pocket money pay gap, and parents agreed that the main reason boys get more is simply because they ask (and ask, and ask, and ask…) for it.

Chantelle, from Wales, has two sons: Jaden, 16, and Tristan, 12. She says, “I don’t have daughters. I just know with my boys it’s hard to say no. Boys are more pushy with their money.”

She adds: “We have serious negotiations over how much they get and what they have to do to earn it. They usually tell me about a game or show me what they want to buy online. Jaden is a good negotiator, and I usually give them specific chores or tasks or ask for certain behaviours to change (late nights, attitudes, brotherly bickering) so they can earn what they need.”

If girls, like women, are less inclined to ask for more, then it’s hardly surprising they end up with less pocket money than boys. And as long as we continue to praise girls for being sensible, responsible and following the rules, they’re less likely to make demands, push for more pocket money and negotiate better paid tasks.

The kids’ perspective 

Unsurprisingly, gohenry kids weren’t happy to hear about the pocket money pay gap – but they did have some thoughts on why it might exist. “I’m so shocked to discover there’s a pay gap between boys and girls. It seems so unfair,” says Saffron, 16. “Many of my friends that are boys have expensive hobbies like skateboarding, where they are always needing new kit, so that could be one reason.”

Other children in our community agree boys’ extra income could be intended to cover the costs of expensive sports. Some suggested that boys do “harder” jobs to earn more money – and one gohenry kid suggested that boys are more badly behaved than girls, so they receive a financial reward for good behaviour!

But a few kids feel that the pocket money pay gap is evidence of blatant sexism. One gohenry kid said, “People still think that men are better than women, but they are not. In some cases women are better.”

Closing the gap

According to equality charity The Fawcett Society, it could take another 60 years to close the gender pay gap, which means it will continue to have an impact on Generation Z’s financial future.

For this reason, it’s important to talk to both boys and girls about their earning power and the challenges they’re likely to face when they start earning a wage.

Simone Gnessen says, “We need to do a better job of socialising girls so they feel able to ask for more. If we talk to them about the gender pay gap – and the pocket money pay gap – from an early age, we can focus on boosting their confidence and helping them to take control of their future earning power.”


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