By Fiona Grahame
The theme for International Women’s Day, 8th March 2018 is #PressforProgress.
So let’s look at the ‘progress’ being made for and by women in Scotland in 2018.
Women in Scotland earn £182.90 per week less than men and yet make up 49% of the work force. Close the Gap state that 64% of workers paid below the living wage are women. Giving evidence to the Scottish Government in 2015, Prof Chris Warhurst, Institute for Employment Research (IER) at Warwick University, said:
“In Scotland already poor quality cleaning jobs in hotels can get worse when workers are shifted into temporary work agency employment or retail workers put onto zero hours contracts.”
Women with Children to Support
Child tax credits are now capped at two children – meaning anyone with two children or more will no longer receive child tax credits at the birth of their next child or subsequent children, unless an exception applies.
The exception to the 2 child cap can be applied if the woman can claim that the conception of the additional child (the +2) was due to being raped or because she was in a coercive relationship where she had no choice in becoming pregnant. This has now become infamous as ‘the rape clause’.
By 2020-21 it is estimated around 50,000 Scottish households will be affected by the changes to child tax credits.
Social Security Minister for the Scottish Government Jeane Freeman announced that the Two Child Benefit Cap would NOT be implemented in Scotland’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme. This scheme reduces the council tax those on low incomes have to pay, with over 75% of recipients not having to pay any council tax at all. A small measure to try and alleviate the economic pressures on families which the Scottish Government is able to do with the limited powers it has over the Welfare Payments System.
Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is an organisation which formed when women born in the 50s began to realise that they would be detrimentally affected by the raising of the UK state pension age. Changes they were not adequately made aware of.
“The 1995 Conservative Government’s Pension Act included plans to increase women’s SPA (State Pension Age) to 65, the same as men’s. WASPI agrees with equalisation, but does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented – with little or no personal notice (1995/2011 Pension Acts), faster than promised (2011 Pension Act), and no time to make alternative plans. Retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences.”
A pension is ‘deferred wages’. It is money paid by the worker over a period of time. Many women often have poorer workplace pensions due to taking time out of work to care for children or in some cases elderly family members. The women affected by the changes in the state pension will have to work for much longer than they intended and/or suffer in many cases serious financial hardship.
Representation of Women
In 2018 there was a centennial celebration for the day women in this country got the vote. That is women over 30 who had a good bit of property. A vote delivered to them perhaps more to do with the social unrest and rebellion that was sweeping across the countries of Europe at the time. When that is going in it’s quite a good idea for government to secure the votes of the middle classes with much to lose when rebellion is afoot. It was not until another 10 years had passed that all women, over the age of 21, were enfranchised.
The number of women who have been elected to the House of Commons since 1918 is 489. In the UK General Election of 2017 29% of candidates were women with 208 being successfully elected. That makes up only 32% of MPs in the House of Commons
In the Scottish Parliament there are 45 MSPs who are women, or 34.9% – which is smidgen better than the UK Parliament but shows we still have a long way to go when over half – 51% of Scotland’s population are women.
And when you drill down and look at the figures of individual parties it’s not much better with one party the Liberal Democrats having no women MSPs at all.
Number of women MSPs by party:
- Labour: 46%
- SNP: 43%
- Conservatives: 19%
- Scottish Greens: 17%
- Liberal Democrats: 0%
Scotland has Gender Representation on Public Boards legislation. The only part of the UK to have this. Its intent is to have 50% of non-executive members of public boards women by the end of 2022. Public Boards are also to ‘encourage’ women to apply for non-executive positions. A glimmer of hope.
There has been progress for women in Scotland with advancements in health care and access to education. But women still tend to be the ones with caring responsibilities (not just child care but of elderly relatives) and they will more likely be in part time work perhaps on zero hours contracts, often as a result of their caring duties.
A few more women have managed to get to the top, First Minister and Prime Minister, but these are still the exceptions.
My great concern that the snail like progress that has been made in women’s equality issues has now gone into reverse mode. The welfare cuts and austerity measures introduced by successive UK Governments has pushed more women into poverty. More women with an uncertain financial future.
#PressforProgress: we’re in reverse gear.