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Priorities for the new First Minister in building a gender equal economy

With many reflecting on the challenges ahead for Scotland’s new First Minister, this blog shares some of SWBG’s priorities for building a gender equal economy in Scotland.

During the leadership campaign Humza Yousaf made important commitments to expanding Scotland’s childcare offer to 1- and 2-year olds, starting from his first budget. Investment in childcare is a critical part of building a caring, gender equal economy. The UK has amongst the highest childcare costs across OECD countries. These costs keep parents, mostly mothers, out of employment; place huge financial burdens on families and are a driving factor in high poverty rates amongst single parents.

We look forward to seeing these commitments delivered within the next budget. We’ll be looking to hear from women across Scotland to support with our pre-budget advocacy later in the year. We’ll be running an update on last year’s survey that looked at how delivery of the 1,140 hours childcare commitment for 3- and 4-year olds was working for women, which showed that lack of flexibility in how these were delivered impacted on how beneficial they could be for women.

On top of this, urgent investment is needed in social care, formerly under Mr Yousaf’s Cabinet Secretary brief. The new First Minister declared that recovery and reform of the NHS and vital public services was an immediate priority in the job. Substantial investment in Scotland's social care support services needs to be part of this priority. As news recently broke of cuts to social care services funding in Glasgow and moves to outsource staff in West Lothian, the urgency of this is increasing if we are to address Scotland’s already crumbling social care services. A long-term strategy to further invest and improve social care support services to meet currently unmet needs; provide fair and well-paid work; and support people to meet their human rights is essential. The proposal made by the Scotland that Cares Campaign for a national outcome on care within the National Performance Framework to ensure action is driven to fully value and invest in care is one part of long-term change. Proposed cuts to services will make it even harder to create a National Care Service that transforms delivery of social care. SWBG research shows how much investment we believe is necessary to transform social care support in Scotland. Investing in care is about political decisions and we hope to see the new First Minister and his Cabinet take bold action to value, recognise and invest in Scotland’s care support services.

When dealing with the cost of living crisis, recognising the unequal impact of rising prices is critical. Our recent research with the Poverty Alliance on the impact of rising costs for women on low incomes highlights some recommendations needed from national to community level. These not only include short term relief measures but longer-term investment in areas such as care which are necessary to support long term recovery for people, communities and the economy. As debt rises for people the long-term outlook on how to provide solutions will be critical.

Humza Yousaf’s commitments to championing the rights of women and girls need to extend to how budget decisions are made. Bringing gender analysis into the process of budget setting and economic planning will help to tackle entrenched gender inequalities.

During the leadership contest SWBG joined with partners across the women’s sector in Scotland for candidates to commit to a range of measures to build a fairer more equal Scotland. Including investing in areas outlined in this blog, as well as, key commitments on ending violence against women and girls, protecting women’s right to abortion and incorporation of international convention, CEDAW, into the Human Rights Bill in Scotland. See more detail on these commitments in the full letter.

Along with our partners across the women’s sector we will continue championing these areas and seeking change to build a gender equal economy in Scotland.

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