In order to close the gender pay gap, better succession planning is needed, research into the topic has found.

The pay gap is a result of lifestyle choices rather than direct discrimination, the report by the Institute of Economic Affairs says.

It also revealed the median full-time pay gap between men and women in their 20s is less than one per cent, with women in part-time work earning more.

Professor J R Shackleton, the report author from the University of East London, said attempts by the government to cut the pay gap were wasted efforts.

"The pay gap is falling but is also a reflection of individuals’ lifestyle preferences. Government can’t regulate or legislate these away – and shouldn’t try to," he added.

Policies which try to impose tighter equality regulations are likely to be ineffective and may damage the economic position of men and women, the report says.

In other news, the current financial crisis is forcing mothers to go back to work earlier than they would like, according to new research by