August 21, 2014
by Angela Constance - Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment
Scotland’s economy is moving from recovery to expansion with labour market statistics published last week showing record levels of women in work.
Women are key to the strength and resilience of Scotland’s economy. They have made a huge contribution to the recovery we are seeing now.
But too often they do so on an unequal basis – they are not feeling the same financial benefits of the recovery.
I am determined that women’s valuable contribution is properly rewarded.
While equalities and employment legislation is reserved to Westminster the Scottish Government will do all in its powers to redress the inequalities and barriers to employment that women still face, including a lack of affordable, high-quality and flexible childcare.
We are investing over £250 million in the next two years to expanded provision for three and four year olds – and will also extend this support to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged two year olds.
And we are seeking additional powers as a matter of priority.
This week we called on the UK Government to transfer powers to allow Scotland to introduce a minimum quota of 40 per cent female representation on public boards.
We want to see women better represented at the highest levels. That stronger female voice will help challenge persistent inequality.
And, following a vote for independence, we will move quickly to challenge still scandalous levels of pay inequality – men typically earn £90 per week more than women in full-time work.
The Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970. Forty four years later it is clear that the current constitutional arrangements regarding equal pay are not delivering for women in Scotland.
We have proposed a Fair Work Commission to advise on the minimum wage, fairness at work and business competitiveness.
As its first priority the Commission will begin work collaboratively to progress a review of the costs and benefits of mandatory equal pay audits.
Women are disproportionately affected by UK Government welfare reforms. Independence would allow us to develop a welfare system which is fair, personal, simple, and provides women with the same incentives to work as men.
Current plans for Universal Credit for example mean that a higher level of partners’ incomes will be taken into account as income when calculating the award. In Scotland’s Future we have committed to equalising the earnings disregard between first and second earners. We estimate that 70,000 second earners – more often women – would benefit by as much as £1,200 a year.
Well-rewarded and sustained employment can be the best route out of poverty, and the best way to tackle inequality.
Through equality of opportunity we can create a more diverse workforce – at all levels and in all areas of our economy – which maximises our skills, improves the productivity of our businesses and grows our economy even faster.