The Gender Pay Gap Manifesto: the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections are an opportunity to realise fair work for women

Close the Gap have now published our manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election. The Gender Pay Gap manifesto outlines 14 policies that should be adopted over the next parliamentary term to address the gender pay gap and realise fair work for women. In line with the multiple causes of the gender pay gap, the policy priorities cover early learning and childcare, automation, the public sector equality duty, employment practice, occupational segregation, low pay, skills policy, tackling the undervaluation of “women’s work” and economic development.

The focus on the gender pay gap in the Scottish Parliament has never been sharper, yet we are still very far from meaningful progress on the inter-related barriers women face in entering and progressing in employment. Fair work has also been established as a key policy focus for all parties represented in the Scottish Parliament, but fair work has to mean fair work for women as well.

It is often repeated that as employment law is not devolved to Scotland, it is not possible for the Scottish Parliament to address the causes of Scotland’s gender pay gap. Our manifesto highlights that this is untrue. The majority of the causes of the gender pay gap are not unlawful, and therefore sit outside of the scope of employment law. Instead, action is required in a number of policy areas over which the Scottish Parliament has the power to enact change now. Some of Close the Gap’s key policy calls include:

  • Designate childcare a key growth sector, along with social care, to recognise care as vital infrastructure.
  • Ensure action to address the undervaluation of “women’s work”, including in adult social care and childcare, is core to labour market and economic recovery policymaking in response to COVID-19.
  • Support the employer accreditation programme Equally Safe at Work through continued funding.
  • Deliver a further extended funded childcare entitlement equivalent to 50 hours a week to enable women to work full-time.
  • Recognising the link between women’s poverty and child poverty, prioritise substantive action to tackle women’s low pay in addressing child poverty.

Taking substantive action on women’s labour market inequality will enable the Scottish Parliament to realise the ambitions of fair work and inclusive growth. Women’s inequality in the labour market is a drag on economic growth and productivity, and occupational segregation is correlated with sector skills shortages. Research by Close the Gap has highlighted that closing the gender gap in employment is worth £17 billion to the Scottish economy.

Transformational change is needed to close the pay gap, and it is time for meaningful, and substantive action on the causes of the gender pay gap in Scotland. Across the political parties, there was a lack of specific policies relating to the gender pay gap in the manifestos for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election and there were also very few policy commitments on gender equality.

The 2021 Scottish Parliament elections present an opportunity for political parties to show leadership on gender equality and take the bold action that is needed to realise fair work for women. Action on women’s labour market inequality has been rendered even more pivotal by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The social, economic and labour market impacts of COVID-19 have the potential to reverse gender equality gains and exacerbate women’s pre-existing inequality. We think it is time for cross-party support for closing the gender pay gap in Scotland.

Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting our specific policy asks over on our social media. In the build-up to the election in May, we will also be continuing to work with political parties and MSPs to encourage support for these policy asks.

You can read the full manifesto here.

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