Women, Work and Wealth in Scotland's changing economy 2022 - Guest blog by Carmen Martinez
Last month, the Scottish Women’s Budget Group launched its latest analysis of women, work, and wealth in Scotland.
This piece of research was commissioned back in the summer of 2022 to understand the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent cost-of-living crisis have so far had on women’s participation in Scotland’s labour market.
The report’s findings paint a bittersweet picture of current labour trends. On the one hand, data shows that as of August 2022 female employment rate was at 74.9%, the highest on record. Furthermore, the report highlights that women now make up 50.5% of the workforce in Scotland. Based on these stats, one could argue that women have made significant gains in the labour market despite of the pandemic, and that Scotland is well within track of achieving its gender equality goals by 2030 in line with the United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development. On the other hand, further evidence reveals the gendered nature of Scotland’s economy. For example, the report shows that women continue to make up the vast majority of part-time workers (74%), and that 80% of all inactive people with caring responsibilities are women. In addition to this, the employment rate of black and minority ethnic women is 22% below that of white women, a figure that exposes the layers of inequality that still characterise Scotland’s society.
Following on from the evaluation of employment rates, the report delves into women’s earnings compared to men’s, the gender pay gap and women’s levels of wealth. The findings here are hardly surprising as we learn that real median earnings for women in full-time work are still £73 lower than those for their male counterparts. As of the gender pay gap, despite having narrowed between 2014-2020, it has increased in the last two years, rising to 11.6% and 12.2% in 2021 and 2022 respectively. Regarding wealth, median inflation-adjusted individual figures show that between 2016 and 2018 men were £14,000 better off than women, with an estimated 34% of women not saving towards their retirement as opposed to 29% of men.
Overall, the report adds to the body of evidence that exposes the extent of gender inequality in Scotland. Some of the data provided can hardly be considered new or even unexpected, though some of the latest statistics reveal the magnitude of the effects that the pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures have had on female earnings and employment rates. What’s more, the evidence collected in this piece of research uncovers women’s vulnerability in the face of the current cost-of-living crisis. On a more positive note, however, this research includes a set of recommendations for policy changes intended for the Scottish Government. These are designed to tackle the issues of gender equality examined, and thus emphasise the need to expand childcare and to deliver a ‘just approach’ for both care workers and care beneficiaries. Most importantly, these recommendations take into account other Scottish Government commitments such as the Net Zero Industrial Strategy and advocate for including care jobs as part of a green industrial strategy for Scotland to achieve its net zero targets by 2045.
These policy proposals would require a new funding approach and appropriate budget allocations to ensure implementation. In times of tight budgets, however, they would also demand strong political commitment to drive action. The Scottish Government should focus on the long-term benefits that the realisation of these policies would yield in the delivery of a fairer and more resilient economy in Scotland for all women and men.
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