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Women and work in the UK in comparative perspective Professor Jill Rubery Manchester Business School Coordinator of the European Commissions Expert Group.

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Presentation on theme: "Women and work in the UK in comparative perspective Professor Jill Rubery Manchester Business School Coordinator of the European Commissions Expert Group."— Presentation transcript:

1 Women and work in the UK in comparative perspective Professor Jill Rubery Manchester Business School Coordinator of the European Commissions Expert Group on Gender, Social Inclusion and Employment

2 25 years on from the Women and Employment Survey: matching the labour market and welfare system to women's aspirations and potential 25 years since WES, 11 years since the OECD called for a new gender contract Still in need of change in labour market and welfare institutions to ensure that: women can realise their aspirations The economy can benefit from womens full potential productivity society can benefit from reduced risks of poverty and social exclusion

3 Identifying needs for policy change through international comparisons Consider five areas ( access to employment, careers, pay and job quality, tax and benefits, support for parenthood) Limits to the use of comparisons No country has achieved gender equality UK has strong as well as weak points Transfer of policies difficult due to differences in environment- but highlights impact of UK environment on equality

4 Access to employment Do well High employment rate (4 th highest in EU15/25) Low unemployment rate (2 nd lowest EU15/25) Do badly Large gender gap in full- time equivalents (above EU25 average) Female unemployed/ inactive often have no access to unemployment benefits/ New Deal- few options other than low paid part-time jobs

5 Possible policy options Right to return to full-time working from part-time (e.g. Netherlands, Germany) Ensure full-time jobs do not require long hours of unpaid overtime Extend women's eligibility to unemployment benefits (change/remove lower earnings threshold etc)

6 Education and careers Do well High proportion of university students Early graduation allows for early establishment of careers prior to childbirth Doing better Higher education plus more rights to stay in own job (leave plus flexible working request) may reduce supply to low paid part- time jobs Do badly Limited opportunities for continuous primarily full-time careers even for higher educated (70% UK higher educated worked continuously compared to 77% EU15- OECD) Strong age discrimination- need to make it up career ladder by 35 or 40. Poor career prospects for lower educated and returners- scarring effects of labour market quits and part-time work

7 Possible policy options Adjust to changing career patterns of women –e.g. raise pay for care workers or face permanent labour shortage due to reduced supply of women returners Address interactions between gender and age discrimination- more opportunities for women to make careers after childcare

8 Pay and job quality Do well Trade union awareness of equal pay issues Equal pay initiatives in public sector Legal system for processing equal pay claims ( at least in comparison to other EU countries) Do badly Large gender pay gap- especially for part-timers- highest in Europe Wide income inequality- higher penalties for being at the bottom of the pay hierarchy Wide pension inequalities- interrupted carers, part-time work plus lack of access to occupational pensions (UK 16% women qualify for a full state pension compared to 78% of men; women receive 32p for every £1 of pension income received by men. Belgium- women's pension 740 compared to 1000 for men)

9 Table 3.1 : Relative pay in female-dominated jobs: an OECD comparison Full-time Sales /shop assistants Full-time Nursing assistants/ auxiliaries Full-time Professional nurses Australia Canada France Germany Norway United Kingdom United States Source: OECD 1998 tables 2.4 and 2.5 based on Grimshaw and Rubery 1997, tables 13,14 and appendix table 5 Variations in extent of pay penalties in female jobs

10 Possible policy options Continue to improve minimum wage- including promotion of living wage Promote sharing of both work and income among higher level job holders Policies to moderate cost-cutting incentives for outsourcing ( e.g. higher minimum wage for contractors agreed for NHS) Policies to promote transparency in pay systems at workplace level Extend equal pay comparisons outside of the employer/workplace New policies to address the shortfall in womens pension- both state and occupational- plus ending of sex-based annuity system

11 Tax and benefits Do well Independent taxation Do badly Limited entitlements to benefits for low earners due to lower earnings threshold Household means-testing for benefits- women in couple households have low entitlements and face disincentives for entering employment

12 Possible policy options Individualise working tax credits (e.g. Belgium) (combined with higher minimum wage) Extend social protection to all employees Address the cost of childcare in make work pay policies (e.g. Sweden has reduced the marginal tax on returners – by varying childcare costs)

13 Work-life balance Do well Opportunities to work part-time (2 nd highest part-time rate in EU15/25) Doing better Work-life balance policies now more on the political and employer/trade union agenda Do badly WLB through unequal gender division Economic dependence embedded in approach to motherhood (low maternity pay; expectation of working part-time without income compensation: no right to return to full-time work: high cost of part-time work on pensions and careers) No policies yet to encourage fathers to participate High cost of childcare

14 Possible policies Right to return to work flexibly and right to return to full-time work Paid leave taken as compensation for reduced hours (Sweden) Policies to address long working hours- e.g. scheduled period of responsibility for managers should not exceed 48 hours even with opt out Policies to encourage male participation (e.g. father months and raising the income upper threshold on parental leave benefits in Sweden) Promote rights of those needing care- children or elderly- instead of rights of parents/carers Address issues of affordability of care

15 Conclusions Need to evaluate existing structures for fitness for purpose-ability to meet current economic, social and equality objectives Major progress made towards a dual earning and more gender equal society but many areas of: i) mismatch- between the labour market and welfare institutional arrangements on the one hand and the requirement of a more gender equal dual earning society on the other ii) missed opportunities- to realise women's talents and potential contribution to productivity and social cohesion.

16 Conclusions To make progress need a more comprehensive –or joined up- evaluation of policy For example: Investing in women through education but costs of adjusting welfare systems and workplaces to retain, develop women's talents regarded as too high cost of waste of investments in education and costs of women's dependency (on partners and then often on state) ignored Learning/borrowing from Europe/US Useful to explore range of potential policies but options constrained by unwillingness in UK to ask employers to change behaviour

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