Councils are addressing the economic exclusion of women
Barriers to paid work encountered by women cost economies dearly – but councils are taking a stand.
This article originally appeared in the Local Government Chronicle.
This International Women’s Day few will need reminding of the inequalities experienced by women at home, in work, business and earnings, and in housing, transport and safety. On average, women in the UK earn 30% less than men, do 60% more unpaid work, accumulate half the private pension wealth that men do, and are less able to afford a decent home.
“£88.7bn GVA is lost to Britain’s economy every year”
Our analysis has found that the barriers to paid work encountered by women mean that £88.7bn GVA is lost to Britain’s economy every year – which, for an idea of scale, is equivalent to the annual contribution of the financial services sector. On the local level, the average regional economy is losing out on £1.68bn per year – in some cases representing nearly 10% of existing annual economic output. There are large regional disparities, too, and a correlation between this economic exclusion and child poverty rates.
Quantifying the impact of those inequalities as a cost, to a large degree, feels like missing the point. But this £88.7bn figure underlines the significance of systemic barriers to paid work for women – including unpaid caring responsibilities (across Britain – there are six times as many women than men economically inactive to look after their families), the high and rising cost of childcare, and wages undermined by the gender pay gap.
“gendered barriers and inequalities on women represent the true cost to our communities”
It is the detrimental effects of gendered barriers and inequalities on women that represents the true cost to our communities – the negative effects on accumulation of wealth and autonomy, putting women at a greater risk of isolation, poverty and deprivation.
These inequalities are compounded by wider systems of disadvantage (e.g. race, LGBTQ+, age, class, disability), and economic policy on the national and local level has historically failed to foreground an intersectional understanding of how wealth flows.However, local councils across the UK are recognising the urgency of addressing the economic exclusion of women, and many are taking significant steps forward.
“local councils across the UK are […] taking significant steps forward”
In Islington, for example, the council is working with neighbouring councils in Camden, Hackney and Tower Hamlets to implement a programme of work designed to help residents access jobs in the tech sector. To date, more than 60% of the startups supported have been led by women. Meanwhile, Clackmannanshire Council in Scotland, has committed to using an inclusive economy approach to realising its objective of “enabling women and girls to […] achieve their full potential.”
“we’re keen to understand more about the role that economic stewardship at a local authority level can play”
At CLES, we’re keen to understand more about the role that economic stewardship at a local authority level can play in addressing the barriers that women face. That’s why we’ve partnered with the Women’s Budget Group and Leeds City Council to investigate how gender inclusion can be prioritised in the development and implementation of economic strategies.
Over the coming months we will be working with women from all walks of life across Leeds and with decision makers at the council to better understand how gender inclusion can be prioritised in the design and tailoring of interventions to support greater economic inclusion. Our findings will be published in the autumn and we hope to uncover insights that will be of value to local authorities everywhere.
Our hope is that, by next International Women’s Day, we will be able to share even more stories of councils taking up the banner to #EmbraceEquity, helping to make our economy work better for everyone.