The commuter gap

We’ve all heard of the gender pay gap, but what about the commuting gap? And how does travelling to work feed into differences in pay between men and women? Let’s take a look.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is the difference in pay for men and women overall. While companies in the UK and the rest of the world are implementing strategies to close this gap, recent reports suggest that it is getting wider.

According to the ONS report, ‘Gender pay gap in the UK: 2019’, the pay gap for full-time employees has increased in 2019 to 8.9%, compared to 8.6% in 2018. Although this is lower than in previous years, it may suggest that improvements have stalled, having hit its lowest rate in 2018.

Gender pay gap for median gross hourly earnings

April 1997 to 2019

What is the commuter gap?

The gender pay gap is often put down to the larger proportion of men in higher-paid jobs. But new figures show that women are more likely to leave a job if there is a long commute – so could the time it takes to get to work have something to do with women earning less?

According to the ONS, women with a 60-minute commute are 29% more likely to leave their current job compared with someone doing a 10-minute commute. Men with an hour-long commute are 24% more likely to leave their job than someone with a 10-minute commute.

The commuting gap report says: “As the main providers of childcare and unpaid work, women tend to favour the flexibility offered by a shorter commute. On the other hand, men are more likely to tolerate a longer journey to work in return for higher pay. This combination contributes to men doing the majority of high-paid jobs, which in turn contributes to the overall gender pay gap.”

How much more likely are women to leave their job

due to a longer commute?

So women’s earnings may have a cap on them as they are less likely to venture further afield where there may be more opportunities for higher pay.

According to ONS data, the commute time for women peaks at the age of 31 at 21.92 minutes. Their median gross weekly earnings also peak at this time with women earning £418.63. The picture is very different when it comes to men as their median travel time peaks at the age of 43 with 25.6 minutes of commuting, and their earnings peak a year later at £661.72 per week.

When do commute times peak

for men and women?

When do earnings peak

for men and women?

Does starting a family make a difference?

In 2018, the 30-34 age group was the largest of those giving birth. There were 212,707 births registered to mothers in this age group, accounting for 32% of all births. With women reducing their commute time from the age of 31 onwards, this suggests that it is linked to the fact that so many of them are starting families around this age.

Number of births per age group

While women decrease their commute time after the age of 31, men’s continues to rise, though at a very slow rate compared to the speed of the increase in their twenties. Between the ages of 31 and 43, when men’s commute times peak, the increase only occurs at a rate of 2.2%. However, looking at the same number of working years, but between the ages of 18 and 30, the increase happens at a rate of 69.07%.

Earnings seem to follow the same pattern with a massive 293.58% increase in weekly earnings between the ages of 18 and 30, compared to an increase of just 18.04% between the ages of 31 and 43.


We used the 2019 report from ONS titled The commuting gap: women are more likely than men to leave their job over a long commute. This provided a springboard for our research. All of the data used came from the ONS dataset, Gender differences in commute time and pay. This dataset looked at commute times and earnings of British men and women aged 16-64 and in employment.

We also took data from the ONS dataset, Births by parents’ characteristics. This gave us the necessary data to look at the correlation between the age of women giving birth and the age at which women’s commute times starts to decrease.