Our joint response to the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery report

Close the Gap and Engender have published a joint response to the report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER), which was convened by Scottish Government to provide advice on Scotland’s economic recovery once the immediate emergency has subsided. Specifically the group was tasked with advising on measures to support different sector and regional challenges the economy will face in recovery; and how business practice will change as a result of Covid-19, including opportunities to operate differently and how Government policy can help the transition towards a greener, net-zero and wellbeing economy.

Close the Gap submitted evidence to the AGER, along with the set of nine principles for a gender equal recovery, developed jointly with Engender, and endorsed by national women's and single parent organisations.

In our response we highlight that, despite the wide-ranging evidence and advocay around the gendered issues of the economic effects of Covid-19, the AGER's report is not gendered. Despite the profoundly gendered nature of the crisis, which has impacted female-dominated sectors and substantially increased women’s unpaid work, the report barely mentions these as concerns. Its analysis does not integrate these gendered issues and nor is there any evidence of them in the recommendations it has produced.

There is a significant risk that without mitigating action, an economic recovery based on the AGER recommendations will worsen women's labour market equality, women's economic position, and widen income and wealth gaps. Close the Gap and Engender set out key issues for Scottish Government to consider when developing its response to the report. The following areas are of particular concern to Close the Gap's work:

  • The care sector review should also include developing action to address the undervaluation of the predominantly female workforce. The challenges around recruitment and retention of the care workforce cannot be viewed in isolation from the gendered experiences of working in the care sector. Women care workers are undervalued, underpaid and underprotected in an increasingly precarious employment landscape. The review should integrate an understanding that a valued, fairly remunerated workforce in secure employment is a necessary step in delivering good quality care services.
  • The acceleration of fair work should also mean fair work for women. Fair work is important in an increasingly precarious labour market but realising fair work for women means recognising women’s higher levels of employment precarity, their concentration in low-paid work, and the gendered barriers to flexible working to enable women to balance work with their caringrole.A Centre for Workplace Transformation must be gender competent, take a gendered approach, and prioritise the increasing precarity of women’s employment and the undervaluation of women’s work. Addressing undervaluation is necessary to address women’s and children’s poverty, and to tackle the gender pay gap.
  • Skills interventions should work to reduce occupational segregation as a central aim. Gender-blind skills initiatives entrench the gender segregation that characterises Scotland’s education and skills pipeline.Occupational segregation drives the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women’s labour market equality, and is a key factor in the disproportionate level of unemployment women, especially Black and minority ethnic women and young women, have experienced, and are anticipated to experience in the future. Occupational segregation also contributes to sectoral skills shortages, and is a drag on growth. Upskilling and reskilling initiatives should be gendered, and aim to reduce occupational segregation. There should also be sufficient flexible places in colleges and universities to enable women to combine learning with caring roles.
  • In-work training programmes should be informed by women’s experiences of training in the workplace. There is evidence that women are less likely to have access to training, particularly women working in low-paid part-time jobs, less likely to undertake training that will enable them to progress or secure a pay rise, and more likely to have to do training in their own time and to contribute towards the cost. The expansion of the Flexible Workforce Development Fund should target the effective utilisation of women’s under-used skills, reduce occupational segregation, and gather gender-sensitive sex disaggregated data on learner participants including the types of courses undertaken.

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