Meeting date: Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Meeting of the Parliament 04 October 2017
Agenda: Business Motion, Portfolio Question Time, Employment Support, Gender Pay Gap, Complaint, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Radiologists
- Business Motion
- Portfolio Question Time
- Employment Support
- Gender Pay Gap
- Business Motion
- Parliamentary Bureau Motion
- Decision Time
Gender Pay Gap
I call Gordon Lindhurst to speak to and move motion S5M-07946 on behalf of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee.15:13
Last spring, the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee undertook an inquiry into the economic impact of the gender pay gap in Scotland. We heard from a large range of witnesses, and I thank everyone who gave us their views during the inquiry. Whether they did so in written evidence, in Twitter stories, in case studies, at formal meetings or during committee visits, all their views helped to inform our inquiry and shape the report.
This might sound slightly controversial, but we were well aware that we were by no means the first to attempt to tackle the subject of the gender pay gap. However, we wanted to look at the issue from an economic point of view and to understand the potential benefits to Scotland’s economy if there were parity of earnings.
It is important to attempt to clarify what we mean by the gender pay gap. As has been highlighted, a common misconception is that it is about men and women being paid the same for equal work. The gender pay gap is not the same as equal pay. The Equal Pay Act 1970 introduced as a legal right the requirement that women should be paid equally for doing the same or comparable work. It was, therefore, a disappointment to the committee to hear that, despite more than 40 years having passed, the issue has still not been resolved and live claims remain outstanding against employers who are considered to discriminate on grounds of gender.
If the gender pay gap is not defined in the same way as equal pay, what is it? How is it measured? The committee found that calculating the pay gap is not a straightforward task. Most commonly, it is carried out by comparison of the hourly earnings of men and women; however, unlike for other labour market indicators, such as unemployment, there is no internationally recognised definition of the pay gap. That means that, in Scotland, the pay gap figure can vary from 6 per cent to 33 per cent, depending on which measure is used. That made it difficult to draw comparisons between Scotland and other countries.
To be consistent with the United Kingdom Office for National Statistics, the Scottish Government uses the full-time median pay gap, which compares median hourly earnings of full-time male and full-time female workers. However, the Scottish Government’s measure excludes part-time workers, and in doing so it excludes 42 per cent of female workers in Scotland. Seventy-five per cent of part-time workers are women, with 42 per cent of women working part time compared with 13 per cent of men. If part-time workers are not included in the calculation of the gender pay gap, it is to be questioned whether the result of the measure that is used by the Scottish Government fairly represents the Scottish workforce. Accordingly, the committee has urged the Scottish Government to change the way in which it measures and reports the gender pay gap in its national performance framework to take account of part-time workers. As a result, the Scottish Government has at least committed to include additional information on the Scotland performs website to show the position for part-time workers, which is to be welcomed.
Rather than look just at the gender pay gap, the committee wanted to look at the possible implications for the Scottish economy. We heard evidence from a range of witnesses, who spoke to the potential economic benefit of increasing women’s participation by reducing the gender pay gap. Further Scotland-specific and detailed research needs to be carried out, but we know that women across our economy continue to be concentrated in low-paid industries and part-time work. They can be impacted at all stages of their working lives and not solely as a result of choosing to start a family or to take time out of their careers.
It is particularly important to note the care sector and its importance in our society. It is the committee’s view that the care sector—including childcare and adult and elderly care—is an undervalued but growing and central part of Scotland’s economy. It is not just about childcare. Care as a sector is also representative of many of the reasons for the existence of the gender pay gap. The sector is dominated by women and is traditionally low paid. Social care needs a more diverse workforce and to be valued as a sector. It also needs to be better paid.
In its recommendations, the committee recognised the impact that improving pay in child, adult and elderly care would have not only on reducing the gender pay gap but on recruiting a more balanced workforce. That balance, we heard, can have a real and meaningful impact.
During the course of the inquiry, members of the committee had the pleasure of visiting numerous businesses, and the experiences that were gained from those visits are reflected in the report and its recommendations. I will give just a few examples. Some members visited Home Sweet Home, a domestic cleaning agency that works with self-employed cleaners and whose workforce is 95 per cent female. The agency recommends payment of the living wage as a minimum, but the 5 per cent of its workers who are male often undertake the higher-paid jobs.
One of the other visits was to Men in Childcare, a Scottish Government and City of Edinburgh Council-funded initiative that is aimed at encouraging men into childcare, because childcare is a sector that is primarily peopled by female workers. On that visit, we heard men speaking positively about the reception that they had experienced from the families of the children with whom they worked, and they highlighted the need for more men to show an interest in the profession. Encouraging men into childcare and supporting both men and women with wages that show the importance of care could have real benefits beyond the purely economic.
I also highlight the importance of flexible, agile and part-time working. The committee found that, even if employers are actively looking to assist women in re-entering the workforce, they might struggle with the provision of part-time jobs and flexible working. The committee heard that, in the UK, around 8 per cent of roles that are advertised with a salary of more than £20,000 per annum offer some sort of flexible working and that flexible working can be important for different reasons and at different career stages. Without the opportunity of flexible working, women can lose out in the jobs market and all of us can lose out on what might have been provided by their skills. The committee has heard evidence of the business benefits of offering agile and flexible working, and it notes that good practice among companies can positively influence appropriately timed maternity return rates.
In recent years, some companies have introduced programmes to encourage people back into the workforce after a career break. That might be a return to work after maternity leave for some, although it is not exclusively that. The committee has heard that one of the key points at which women drop out of the workforce is after a career break, often to care for children, and we were encouraged to hear that businesses and organisations have been finding innovative ways of supporting employees to return to the workforce and retrain with the assistance of appropriate mentoring. The Scottish Government’s support for returners programmes and its commitment to learn from best practice and work with partner projects are to be welcomed. The committee recognises that different solutions are needed for different sectors and that returners programmes should be tailored accordingly.
There are a host of arguments as to why the gender pay gap should be addressed. In this short speech, I have had the chance to cover only a few of the key points and a few aspects of the committee’s report although the subject is complex and wide ranging. For example, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s written evidence on its own gender pay gap situation, as independently audited, revealed a 0 per cent pay gap across its staff groups, although pay equality varied at different levels in the organisation.
There is, therefore, work to be done, which is why in its report the committee recommends that the Scottish Government produce an overarching strategy to address the gender pay gap, including an action plan and measurable targets. I note that the Scottish Government will undertake a scoping exercise to see whether a co-ordinated cross-Government action plan is feasible. The whole committee is, no doubt, looking forward to the result of that.
With the political will, we can move forward in a balanced and appropriate manner to address the issue. It is a matter of fairness to all.
That the Parliament notes the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee’s 6th Report, 2017 (Session 5), No Small Change: The Economic Potential of Closing the Gender Pay Gap (SP paper 179).15:23
I am grateful to the members of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee for the report that we are debating today and, indeed, the chance to debate it, and I welcome the work that they have undertaken to build a better understanding of the drivers and reasons for the prevalence of the gender pay gap in Scotland.
The written submissions received by the committee and the evidence sessions that it had all underline the complexity of this issue. However, this Government does not shy away from issues that are complex, and we are determined to reduce gender inequality and improve the position of women not only in the workplace but in all aspects of Scottish life. Our recently launched programme for government sets out our plan to shape the kind of Scotland we all seek: an inclusive, fair, prosperous, innovative country, ready and willing to embrace the future.
Our strong commitment to equality lies at the core of Scotland’s economic strategy, and closing the gender pay gap is a priority in promoting equality and, just as fundamentally, boosting inclusive economic growth.
Scotland is making positive progress. The overall pay gap in Scotland, which reflects all workers, full and part time, stands at 15.6 per cent, which is down from 20.4 per cent in 2007. In 2016, the full-time pay gap was 6.2 per cent, which was lower than the UK figure of 9.4 per cent and down from 11.9 per cent in 2007. The figure is too high and we must do more, but there is progress.
That allows me to mention Gordon Lindhurst’s point about measurement. He is right to reflect that there is no single international standard. We have responded to the committee’s request, and we will publish, through Scotland performs, a wider range of information on the nature of the gender pay gap, using a range of measurements. The fundamental thing is that, no matter the measurement, we want the figures to move in a positive direction, and that has happened in Scotland, although of course we want the gap to reduce further still.
The evidence that was provided during the inquiry has reinforced much of what we know about the main drivers of the gender pay gap and confirmed that there is no single solution to closing it. We agree with the committee that high-quality evidence and analysis are vital to underpinning effective and inclusive policy making in Scotland. We are therefore taking real steps forward in improving our gathering and communication of data. Just last week, we published a working paper on the development of a gender index for Scotland. We will now engage in meaningful dialogue with those who have an interest in the matter as we take that work to its conclusion. We plan to hold a workshop later this autumn to discuss how to take that forward alongside work on other data gaps that were highlighted in the recently published “Scotland’s Equality Evidence Strategy 2017-2021”.
We must use the data, as we seek to improve it, and what we already know about underrepresentation of women in traditional male-dominated careers to guide our approach. For example, we know that women are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers and that, even in sectors where women are well represented, such as finance and law, occupational segregation prevents women from progressing to senior management positions. In that regard, I agree with Gordon Lindhurst that, equally, we need to take steps to diversify the workforce in the care sector. We need more men to enter that sector and we must ensure that those who work in it are adequately remunerated. That is why we have committed to ensuring that those who work in adult social care and early years childcare are paid the living wage.
Segregation in the workplace, gender stereotyping and discrimination start at an early age. Incidentally, that is one reason why it is so important for us to ensure that more men work in early years childcare—it is so that young boys have role models that they can look to and understand that childcare is just as much a career for them as it is for their female counterparts. It is also why we have been developing our STEM strategy, which we will publish shortly, and why we are implementing the developing the young workforce strategy. In partnership with Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council, we have set targets to increase the gender minority share in the most imbalanced college subject groups and modern apprenticeship frameworks by 2021.
When I am out and about, I often see that a modern apprenticeship can be a life-changing opportunity for a young person. That is why we are committed to expanding the reach of such opportunities to tackle gender imbalances and promote equality of access. Through the work on developing the young workforce, the modern apprenticeship equality action plan and the Scottish funding council gender action plan, we have set out a number of ways in which we aim to ensure that young people are supported with their subject and career choices.
Since my appearance before the committee, Skills Development Scotland has published its “Equality action plan—Year 1 update: For Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland”. Overall, there have been improvements in the number of modern apprenticeship frameworks where the gender balance is greater than 75:25, with the figure falling from 74 per cent in 2015-16 to 70 per cent in 2016-17. That is welcome progress, although of course again we must see more.
Skills Development Scotland continues to work with a range of organisations to further improve the gender balance in the uptake of apprenticeship frameworks and we will continue to support them to ensure that apprenticeship opportunities are open to all.
There is a clear need to make sustainable change to societal and cultural norms to achieve the inclusive growth that we want to see. That is a long-term commitment, not one that we will achieve overnight. We need consistent commitment from every part of the system to make a lasting change and to make sure that we tackle discrimination in the workplace.
The Government is committed to that agenda, which is why I chair a working group on pregnancy and maternity discrimination and why we support a women returners programme, which Gordon Lindhurst mentioned. It is why we have worked with Timewise Solutions and we fund and take part in the family friendly working Scotland partnership. It is why we have the Scottish business pledge and why we are rolling out more early years childcare. We are very much signed up to the agenda.
It is not just a commitment that all of us in the political sector need to make. There needs to be a societal commitment. However, the chamber and the committee can be assured that the Government is signed up to the agenda.15:30
I thank the clerks and others involved for their hard work in preparing the report on the gender pay gap. It is an important report, which deals with a complex topic that cuts across fairness, equality and social justice as well as wider economic considerations such as women’s low pay and skills development.
The gender pay gap is not unique to the UK, but is a common feature in advanced and developing economies worldwide. As the minister said, the gender pay gap in Scotland stands at 6.2 per cent for full-time employees and 15.6 per cent for all employees, and it is at the lower end of the scale compared with the gap in many European countries. However, more needs to be done to close it.
With that objective in mind, a major focus of the committee was to identify the underlying factors that cause the gap in pay. The committee looked in depth at a number of those factors, including occupational segregation—in particular, the underrepresentation of women in STEM and other highly paid occupations. For example, only 2 per cent of engineering jobs and 18 per cent of digital technology jobs are carried out by women. The opposite is true in lower-paid sectors, where there is an overconcentration of female workers. For example, Scottish Care told the committee in evidence that 86 per cent of workers in the care sector are women.
Other factors that we heard about in evidence included the low levels of women who reach senior management positions in organisations and women not returning to work after having children or not returning to the same level. EY told us:
“Working below skills level is an issue for women when they want to return to the workplace—and the older a woman gets, the harder that is.”—[Official Report, Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee, 14 March 2017; c 44.]
In order to effectively address the gender pay gap, it is important that we look beyond the headlines and the easy solutions, and address the underlying issues. That is what the committee has done by setting out a comprehensive set of recommendations. Time allows me to highlight only a few.
We need to tackle the long-term factors that result in occupational segregation. The committee heard extensive evidence that the key to tackling occupational segregation is encouraging more young women to enter high-earning fields, such as STEM. Specific recommendations to address occupational segregation included improved career guidance from primary school right through to tertiary education—there was a feeling that sometimes careers guidance is out of date with the opportunities in the workforce and sometimes it comes to pupils too late. There was an emphasis on maximising the uptake of women workers in STEM areas. Another recommendation was the need to address the gender imbalance in modern apprenticeships—we welcome the plans for that that the minister announced. There is also a job to be done in encouraging men to enter social care and other sectors in which female workers are heavily represented.
The committee also recommended better support for women returning to work. That is being addressed to some extent by Government initiatives. The UK Government has announced a £5 million fund to support women returning to work and the Scottish Government is providing support as well. It is incumbent on the private sector to establish a returner programme for women. The committee heard powerful evidence that the valuable knowledge and skills of experienced women are not being fully deployed when they return to work. We simply cannot afford to lose that valuable talent from the workplace.
We need to consider the impact of the decline of female participation at colleges and the impact that that has had on supporting women back to the workplace. Audit Scotland reported:
“The fall in part-time places ... has had a disproportionate effect on female students.”
The committee further recommended that the care sector, as Gordon Lindhurst mentioned, should become a Scottish Government priority sector, acknowledging the importance of the sector to Scotland’s economy and the increased spending that has taken place, and will take place, in the sector. Changing demographics will mean that demands placed on the care sector will increase significantly, and it is important that we prioritise that to achieve a balanced workforce, improve productivity and help to make the sector fit for the challenges that lie ahead.
The committee called for more analysis and information on the gender pay gap in Scotland—again, that was touched on by the minister. We welcome working together with the Government in that area, because the gender pay gap varies according to a number of factors such as age, social class and level of education; it is not a static one-dimensional problem. The committee recommended that the Scottish Government should do more work in that area to analyse how we can address the gap. In that regard, the committee welcomed the UK Government’s initiative for companies to report on their gender pay gap. Concern was expressed that the 250-employee threshold for reporting might not capture large parts of the small and medium-sized enterprise economy in Scotland, but the Confederation of British Industry said:
“Any extension of mandatory reporting to companies in Scotland with less than 250 employees would place a significant regulatory burden”
on those companies.
The Scottish Conservatives support steps to close the gender pay gap in Scotland. We agree with the committee’s approach to dealing with the underlying issues and not just the headlines or outcomes. As the report concludes, there is recognition that
“the reasons for the gender pay gap are deep-seated and wide-ranging and need to be tackled”
“a number of policy areas, including education, skills, childcare, procurement”
We agree, and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government to close the gap.
I call Jackie Baillie. You have up to six minutes, Ms Baillie.15:36
Presiding Officer, things have certainly changed since you and I were first elected to the Parliament in 1999. I am delighted that I have been preceded by three men in this debate on the gender pay gap—the feminisation of debates in this Parliament continues apace.
I am very proud that the Labour Party and Barbara Castle introduced the Equal Pay Act in 1970, so that men and women would receive equal pay for performing equal work. That, of course, followed on from the Ford sewing machinists’ strike at Dagenham and fundamentally changed women’s industrial history. We have come a long way in almost 50 years, but there is much more work to do.
Let us not, as the committee convener quite rightly pointed out, confuse equal pay with the gender pay gap. The gender pay gap in Scotland today, which stands at almost 16 per cent, is caused by a myriad of different, complex and interconnected issues that, when taken together, underline women’s inequality in the labour market.
Women are still more likely to be in low-paid, part-time, low-skilled jobs. Women are underrepresented in senior management and leadership roles. Women still have the majority of care duties, whether that is for children or older people. If we maintain the snail’s pace of change that we have now, it will take another 140 years to close the pay gap. I am sorry, but I cannot wait that long—I will not live that long, for a start. However, I am impatient for change, not just for my generation, but for my daughter’s generation and the women who will follow her.
I am impatient for that change for our economy, too. The GDP figures that were announced today show that our economy grew in the last quarter, but by only 0.1 per cent. As night follows day, out came the press release from Keith Brown claiming credit for the good news. The Scottish economy is teetering on the brink of a recession and the response of the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work is breathtaking in its complacency. It matters now more than ever before, because lower growth rates between Scottish and UK Governments will have an impact on our block grant because of the fiscal framework. Growing our economy is a fiscal imperative.
Notwithstanding a long-standing Green critique of economic growth as an overriding objective, does Jackie Baillie acknowledge that a narrow focus on GDP fails to understand the different gendered aspects to economic work? Unpaid caring work, for example, does nothing for GDP—a great deal of such work is done by women—whereas paid caring work is seen as contributing to GDP. It is a myopic analysis.
As the member will appreciate, GDP can be compared across different countries. However, I accept his point that there should be more quality in the statistical collections that we make to indicate what the gender pay gap is across the board.
We know that growth suffers if there is a continuing pay gap. Over the course of a woman’s working life, she will earn on average £456,518 less than a man. That is a shocking statistic. What a lost opportunity. If we close the gender pay gap, we inject a staggering £17 billion into the Scottish economy. That is transformational for our economy and for women. It is imperative that we close the gap.
The committee came up with a range of recommendations, covering everything from a national strategy, flexible working and tackling occupational segregation to making care a priority growth sector. I say as gently as I can to the minister that the Government’s response is weak and timid. Where is the evidence of urgency and momentum? Where is the evidence of political priority? I hope that the minister proves me wrong; here is one area in which he can do just that.
Formally designating care as a key growth sector would be a small but welcome first step in addressing the undervaluation of care work. We know that the majority of staff in the care sector are female. The jobs are often part time and low paid. As a society we understand the importance of care, and yet take-home pay shows that we do not value those who choose caring as a profession. At the moment, care is the single biggest growth sector in employment terms, yet it is not on the radar of our enterprise agencies. That needs to end.
We know that childcare provision can be a real driver for economic growth, because it enables parents to return to the workforce or increase their hours. With the expansion of childcare, adult social care and older people’s care, we need to address the skill shortages and help the private and third sector in the fields of investment, leadership, innovation and fair work. That is a job for our enterprise agencies.
Our economic strategy moved towards a more inclusive definition of what is important to the Scottish economy. The care sector should be at the centre of that, and should be supported by all that is best in our enterprise support structures.
I recognise that a first step has been taken by paying the real living wage to adult social care staff, but that does not apply overnight and it does not apply to childcare staff. When health and social care partnerships are commissioning services, there are still issues for private and third sector care staff as costs are driven downwards. There is much still to do to value all of the workforce well, and to shatter the glass ceiling for women.
A Labour Government would focus on reducing the gender pay gap, not on protecting the privileged few. We would increase the minimum wage to a real living wage of £10 per hour and, as part of our plan for rights at work, we would ensure that companies complied with gender equality legislation.
The prize is great for women and for our economy.15:43
I will begin my speech with one of many workplace discrimination stories that I have heard from my female friends over the years.
One woman was a middle manager in an information technology services firm. She had worked for the same firm for 12 years, working her way up to managing the most prestigious account that the team had. When she told her boss that she was pregnant, she was immediately removed from that account and told that she would have to spend the rest of her time before she went on maternity leave training up her male replacement.
When she returned from maternity leave, she was not given her account back. She was put on to a number of small accounts, all of which were on—to use the company’s terminology—red alert status because of previous mismanagement by another staff member. On her return from maternity leave, she was effectively set up for failure. That example is from only a few years ago and is part of a series of entrenched behaviours and attitudes that cause the gender pay gap.
I started work in London in the mid-1990s and, although it seems as though we have moved on in some areas, it seems as though, in others, we have not moved on as quickly as I would have liked. In my first job as a systems integrator, I appeared in a league table that was pinned to the breakroom wall. Best work performance? No, sadly not. It was a ranking of the sexual attractiveness of all the junior female employees.
In taking evidence for the report, my colleagues on the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee and I heard detailed testimony about the ways in which women are still put on an unequal footing in the workplace. The motherhood penalty is one example. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, three in five professional mothers who return to the workforce are likely to be moved into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles, with total earnings being reduced by a third. That phenomenon sees a disproportionate number of women taking on part-time jobs and forgoing professional advancement.
The gender pay gap is the undeniable embodiment of a workplace culture in which women are systematically undervalued and unduly limited. Those limitations must be dismantled if the gender pay gap is to truly be reversed, and the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee’s report sets forth a number of recommendations that aim to do just that.
The committee heard that the motherhood penalty would diminish if changes were made to flexible working and childcare provision. A demand for flexible jobs that outstrips supply is causing a talent bottleneck that has had an adverse effect on working mothers, forcing them into part-time jobs that they are overqualified for and do not necessarily want. Flexible working enables people to, for example, tend to caring responsibilities without sacrificing their earning potential and professional advancement in the process. That has business benefits as well, as flexible working has been shown to boost labour market participation and productivity. The committee heard that the UK has a 1.5 breadwinner model. I would like us to move away from that.
I have spoken a lot about motherhood and how that links into the gender pay gap but, of course, this is an issue that affects women with and without children. As the committee report notes, little progress has been made on easing occupational segregation in areas such as modern apprenticeships—female starts in engineering, construction and automotive apprenticeships in 2015-16 did not rise higher than 6 per cent. Colleges Scotland stated that it believes that that has less to do with the apprenticeships and more to do with societal attitudes. That is why there must be interventions early on in a child’s life to prevent the gendering of occupations. The work of SSE is a great example of that, as it has created its own picture book for children that features a female engineer, and the book is brought into schools by female engineers who then speak about their work.
Engender testified before the committee that there is a “leaky pipeline” of women and girls in the hard sciences. Strategies must be put in place to foster greater and more sustained female involvement in those currently male-dominated fields. The City of Glasgow College’s women in construction and women into engineering courses are good examples of what can be done in that area.
Occupational segregation persists outside the hard sciences as well, with women holding 50 per cent of positions in finance but those jobs being concentrated at the lowest-paying end. Similarly, there are more women than men in the law sector but only 28 per cent of partners are female. Further, if women break into the technology sector—which was the sector that my earlier example from my own life concerned—or the engineering or construction sectors, there is a double glass-ceiling effect that means that only 12 per cent of females rise to management roles in those fields.
I can see that I am running out of time, so I will end by saying that the report’s foreword says that, at the present rate of progress, it will take us 140 years to close the gender pay gap. I think that everyone in the chamber would agree that that is not acceptable, and I look forward to the Government taking action on some of the report’s recommendations.
Any extra time that members take will affect their colleagues later on.15:50
I begin by adding my thanks to those already given to the committee and all those who contributed to this report on the gender pay gap.
This is a very worthwhile, substantive and wide-ranging piece of work. I have no doubt that, given the clear cross-party support for a number of the recommendations, the work of the committee will ensure that Scotland continues to be a leader in this area.
Be in no doubt that we must make sure that that happens. This issue is so vital and important; it goes right to the fundamental questions of fairness, equality and the kind of society in which we want to live. If we cannot address it and ensure that everyone, regardless of gender, has the same opportunities throughout their lives, we should all be embarrassed, not just as a Parliament but as a country.
That said, and despite some of the worrying and disappointing evidence of continued challenges that the committee heard in the course of its evidence taking, we have to recognise and learn from the very significant steps that have already been taken. In doing so we must pay tribute to the instigators and trailblazers who, through the generations and across the decades—and for that matter over the centuries—have, through their personal commitment, delivered real progress and changed hearts and minds.
As I have said many times in this chamber in other debates, we have to be willing to view issues around gender inequality, such as the gender pay gap, within the context of society as a whole and to recognise particularly, as other members have referenced, further issues around the representation of women at the highest levels of decision making.
That is why I am particularly delighted that, for the first time in the UK, we see the roles of head of state, head of Government and head of the judiciary all held by women. Lest we forget, here in the Scottish Parliament we also have the first female First Minister in Nicola Sturgeon and, until recently, all three leaders of Scotland’s main parties, or—in the interest of the cross-party spirit of this debate—three out of the five party leaders in this Parliament, were women. I recognise Jackie Baillie’s continued perseverance on this cause and I am, of course, disappointed that she did not put herself forward to ensure that that situation could continue.
I believe that those examples, and indeed the examples of all women in public life and in prominent positions, send out a strong message about the changes that are already taking place in our society.
Although we cannot ignore that progress, neither it is an excuse to rest on our laurels. As other members have addressed in this debate, it is not all about equal pay. As I have alluded to, it is also about ensuring that all opportunities, options and choices are open to all, so that men and women can compete on a level playing field and go to the very top in our society. Ultimately, that is the only way to address the discrepancy in average pay.
It is also about addressing continued stereotypes and the often underlying, self-limiting factors that discourage women from entering STEM-related jobs. Equally it means that a number of men, for various reasons, decide that they do not wish to be involved in the care sector or are unwilling to go into primary teaching or nursing.
Again, although I understand that progress has been made in some of those areas and appreciate that, relatively speaking, such barriers are beginning to break down, to find ourselves in 2017 still having such fundamental challenges in our workforce is somewhat alarming. There is clear evidence of long-term occupational segregation, and the committee’s report captures some of it.
I have found, particularly from the many discussions that I have had with teachers over the past year and a half, that within our schools far too many young people are taking decisions too early in their school career and learning journey. The decisions that they make early on then continue to influence their thinking throughout the rest of their lives.
For that reason, and because of the multitude of challenges that exist, making the progress that we all want to see is so tricky. There is no single answer, but thanks to the work of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee and what I believe is a genuine willingness on all sides, I believe that we can continue to make significant progress. We must do so because every day that the gender pay gap continues to exist is another day when our economy is underperforming. More important, the underutilisation of skills and talents in our society and country is a crying shame at both the individual and national level.15:55
I refer members to my register of interests.
Before my election to Parliament, I had the singular privilege of working for nearly 20 years as a trades union organiser for the GMB across Scotland, negotiating pay rises, averting redundancies, battling grave injustices such as the construction industry blacklisting scandal and securing equal pay for women workers, more often than not low-paid women workers—in supermarkets, in social care in our communities and in factories and offices, in cleaning, catering, caring, clerical and cashiering work.
My first recourse to an employment tribunal all those years ago was with an equal pay case for the head chef at Rosyth dockyard, who discovered that she was getting almost £2 an hour less than her predecessor. We won. Down the years, I have led and won equal pay cases for cleaners at Longannet power station and at Diageo sites across Scotland, where we discovered that there was a janitors’ rate of pay—male; a cleaners’ rate of pay—female; and a part-time cleaners’ rate of pay—female too.
As the committee report shows, women make up 76 per cent of all part-time workers in Scotland, so they are among the lowest hourly, weekly, monthly and annually paid workers; and 20 per cent of all women workers—nearly 300,000 women in Scotland today—earn less than the living wage of £8.45 an hour, compared with 14 per cent of male workers. To tackle low pay and in-work poverty is also to tackle the gender pay gap, which is why, for the Labour Party, the living wage is a political priority.
It has always been clear to me that work predominantly performed by women is markedly undervalued and underpaid. The committee was vividly told by one witness that
“if the social care workforce in Scotland was more balanced and representative of the community and—dare I say it—more male dominated ... we would not be a low-paid profession.”—[Official Report, Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee, 18 April 2017; c 42.]
I say to the Government that unless we re-evaluate those jobs in our society and in our economy and address the scourge of low pay, we will never close the gender pay gap.
There is something else that I knew from the outset of my time as a union organiser: that through their trade unions, working people could achieve much through industrial struggle and, occasionally, could achieve much through the courts and tribunals, but that a real and decisive advance is often made through political action and decisions.
I spent much of my time in the union going toe to toe with some of Scotland’s biggest employers, challenging them to pay the living wage. One of the best examples is Diageo, the biggest drinks company in the world. Despite negotiation after negotiation, year after year and record profit after record profit, Diageo would not move on the living wage for its lowest-paid workers, who are employed for it but not by it. Transferred every few years from Compass to Mitie to Sodexo, those lowest-paid cleaning and catering workers—again, a group of predominantly women workers—were treated for too long as second-class citizens. So, when a representative of Sodexo and a representative of Diageo appeared before the committee as part of our inquiry into the gender pay gap, I was not surprised to hear them describe how they are committed to the living wage concept.
The committee therefore decided that we should highlight in our report the difference between actual living wage employers and those conceptual living wage employers. It is there in paragraph 192 of the final report:
“‘actual’ living wage employers ... ensure all those working for the business are paid the living wage, and ‘conceptual’ living wage employers ... support the concept of the living wage but do not actually implement it.”
I am delighted to report to Parliament this afternoon that those low-paid workers employed by Sodexo on the Diageo contract on sites across Scotland—those workers who I represented for all those years—now have it confirmed in writing that, by the end of this year, because of political pressure applied in this Parliament, they will get the living wage of £8.45 an hour.
There is a lot that we can do in this Parliament. We can devise a national strategy, we can act through public procurement, we can redesign the Scottish business pledge and we can prioritise the social care sector, because we do have it in our power to tackle the gender pay gap. If we are serious about equality and the place of women in society, this Parliament and this Government must act, not only as a matter of economic imperative but as a matter of moral imperative, too.16:01
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak. I am pleased that the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee chose to devote significant time to an inquiry into the gender pay gap, and I thank it for its work.
I begin by reflecting on a problem that I think our society has in discussing the issue. The problem is that a great deal of our focus and attention is drawn to the top end of the economic inequality in our society. Very often, when the gender pay gap is even acknowledged in mainstream media discussions, the focus is the highest-flying businesspeople or, as we saw recently, the massive salaries that are given to television stars—the six and even seven-figure salaries that a tiny proportion of people in our society enjoy.
Obviously, I want the BBC and other big broadcasters to address gender inequality, and if it means that we see a bit less of Andrew Neil on the telly as well, that will just be the icing on the cake. However, the drawing of our attention only to the tiny number of people at the top end of our society’s economic inequality fails to address the reality of the vast majority of people’s lives.
That came across in something that Oliver Mundell said. He said that more women getting to the top—the very top, I think he said—is the only way to address the gender pay gap, and as an example he mentioned that the heads of Government, state and the judiciary in the UK are all now women. If getting women to the very top was the best way of addressing the gap, we would be there already, but we are not there. That example demonstrates that a focus on the very top is not enough to address the wider problem.
I understand the point that Patrick Harvie is trying to make, but I think that it is a mischaracterisation of my remarks. I said that women being in those prominent roles and being seen to make decisions and take the lead in our public life sends out an important message, and probably the strongest message of all. I did not say that it is the only thing that can be done. I hope that Patrick Harvie will accept that that is the point that I was making.
If that is what Oliver Mundell intended to say, I am happy to accept that, but I suggest that, although sending out that signal may be a nice thing to do and may even have some real value, if we send out a signal that all is right at the top without fundamentally changing the structural inequalities that exist throughout the rest of our society and our economy, we will not achieve anything more than a cosmetic change.
A number of members have touched on the economic case for reducing and eliminating the gender pay gap, and that case comes across strongly in the report. In fact, I wonder whether it comes across too strongly in the report, because although there is undoubtedly a strong economic case for reducing the gender pay gap—as has been demonstrated time and time again by numerous studies; this is not news, but something that we know to be the case—is it really the one argument that we should be relying on more than any other?
Surely we can agree that gender inequality is wrong in principle, and that the gender pay gap is one expression of gender inequality in our society. If a business feels that it is not able to improve its economic performance by reducing the gender pay gap, it should not make that a justification for not taking action. We should be clear about the economic opportunities that arise from reducing and eliminating the gender pay gap, but we should not rely solely on that economic argument—or even, perhaps, give it prominence—to do something that is the right thing in principle.
The gender pay gap is a symptom of wider societal structural inequalities, which also matter and require to be addressed. Richard Leonard touched on that when he talked about the way that we value different kinds of work. The kind of work that, historically, has been done by a higher proportion of women than men has been, and still is, undervalued. However, is it enough simply to get more women into high-value careers in the STEM industries, for example, although that is great and a good thing in its own right? Is it enough to get more men to think about a career in the caring professions if those caring professions, which are critically important to our quality of life, are still undervalued and paid less than they ought to be if we want to close the gap?
Do the services that we have genuinely meet the diverse needs of all women, including single parents, 92 per cent of whom are women, and women who are returning from career breaks? As we have heard, women who are returning from career breaks are not necessarily looking for help into the easiest and quickest entry-level job; they are looking to regain and return to a meaningful career that they may have left, but only for a period of time. We should be giving them the support that they need as well.
Finally, I make the case that the Government’s commitment to explore and fund trials of a citizens income is a critically important way to address those wider structural gender inequalities that feed through into the pay gap. It will ensure that all people—women and men—are better able to strike their own balance between learning, working, volunteering, caring and all the other things that matter in our lives.16:07
I thank Gordon Lindhurst and the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee for bringing this important motion and report to Parliament. I congratulate the committee and its convener on the work that they have undertaken.
Like other speakers in the debate, I find it dispiriting that after 18 years of devolution and a range of debates, we must still hold such inquiries and look to close the gap between male and female median earnings that the committee conservatively estimates to stand at 16 per cent.
That frustration was mirrored by several prominent female broadcasters in their open letter to the director general of the BBC, Lord Hall, earlier this summer. They said:
“You have said that you will ‘sort’ the gender pay gap by 2020, but the BBC has known about the pay disparity for years. We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now.”
This Parliament has known about that disparity for the entirety of its existence. It is now time for us to act.
The committee pointed out that the extent of the gender pay gap is hard to calibrate, and its causes are difficult to fathom accurately, particularly given the current 250-employee minimum threshold for gender pay reporting. The committee rightly recommends that the Government should adopt a range of indicators to establish patterns, trends and hidden obstacles to female pay progression in this country.
Nevertheless, the committee has given us a flavour of the challenge before us. Women continue to be concentrated in low-paid industries and part-time work. For example, in Scotland last year, 40 per cent of women were in part-time work, and they made up 78 per cent of all part-time workers. Male entrepreneurs in the self-employed workforce appear to find greater ease in accessing capital than their female counterparts.
Our response to gender inequality in the workplace cannot rest solely on the calibration of pay scales. Since the exchange of human labour began, systemic barriers have existed that have created an imbalance in the opportunities and advantages that women can enjoy at work. We must therefore take a whole-systems approach to reform.
When he was Deputy Prime Minister, my friend and then colleague Nick Clegg sought to change the narrative around gender stereotypes at work through shared parental leave. He identified maternity—and even just potential maternity—as one of the biggest barriers to women’s progression in the workplace. We know that employers still discriminate against women of childbearing age when recruiting, even though that is against the law, but it is when children are born that the gap really begins to grow, with women being passed over for promotion or moving into part-time work.
As part of his justification for the policy of shared parental leave, Nick Clegg said:
“if both sexes are equally likely to take time out of their career to look after young children, and if both are equally likely to go part-time to help them juggle work and home—employers won’t have an excuse for letting women fall behind.”
It is a simple premise: we can make great progress towards evening out the playing field in the workplace by giving parents the choice and removing from employers the supposition that a woman in her 20s or 30s is less dependable than a man.
Such an approach must go hand in glove with efforts to change perceptions among male workers as well. A recent survey by Hays Recruitment Services found that nearly two thirds of workers say that men who take up their share of parental leave are less committed to their career.
This Parliament will soon have an opportunity to change the culture of organisations in public control, so that governance reflects wider society, through gender balance. In the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill, we will set a new standard in gender equality in the workplace and challenge industry to follow our lead.
We also need to do more about childcare, extending the debate far beyond the public funding of hours. The MacLean commission for childcare reform recommended flexibility that would give parents a range of options and make it easier for women, in particular, to re-enter and remain in the labour market. Until we get that right and address societal pressures around expectations of motherhood, we will continue to fall behind.
The committee’s estimate of a 16 per cent gap between male and female earnings in this country is more than 10 per cent adrift of the 5 per cent gap in Denmark. Although the needle has shifted over time, it is clear that our efforts have been unequal to the challenge. I want to be able to go home tonight, look my three-year-old daughter Darcy in the eye and explain to her that, whatever path she chooses, she can expect exactly the same recognition and reward as her brothers. The report takes us some way towards that.16:13
I thank everyone from the public sphere who engaged with the committee by providing submissions and commenting on social media on their experience of the gender pay gap. Their testimonies really informed our questioning and report. The best reports come out of inquiries in which the people of Scotland have been very involved.
I point to the amount of media interest that our inquiry received. When the media pay attention, it means that what we do permeates into civic society. I took part in two Radio Scotland “Call Kaye” phone-in sessions on the issue, and I was on an episode of “Woman’s Hour”—
I got it in, Jackie—there you go.
I know that other committee members were interviewed, too. Such engagement prompts a national conversation, which is what the issue desperately needs.
I want to use my time in the debate to talk about the limitations of the gender pay gap reporting obligations. As we know, new reporting legislation from the UK Government will affect companies that have more than 250 employees. I remain unconvinced about the effectiveness of the legislation in Scotland, for a number of reasons.
Most obvious is that the legal duty compels only very large companies to report their gender pay gap, but in Scotland SMEs make up a vast percentage of our economy. As a former small business owner, I completely understand the pressures that formal and compulsory reporting put on a very small business. I do not think that any member of the committee argued for reporting to be made compulsory for all businesses. However, we recommended that the Scottish Government consider how we might better capture a picture of the gender pay gap challenges in our economy.
Does the member accept that Page\Park Architects, a small employer in my constituency that we visited, has only about 40 employees but could produce its gender pay gap figure very easily?
I absolutely accept that. I actually had a discussion with Ash Denham about where the threshold should be. Producing the figure is not exactly onerous, and it is certainly the right thing to do.
We might capture the picture through existing channels. For example, gender pay gap reports might be asked for in public procurement situations, or in Scottish Enterprise or Highlands and Islands Enterprise account management situations. Fair work reporting stipulations are not a new idea for companies that seek to tender for public contracts or to access business support. Such measures might change business behaviour. Like it or not, although we might be convinced of the business benefits of closing the gender pay gap, many companies still are not. The effect would reach even further if companies made demands on their supply chains through procurement contracts.
However, reporting just reveals the problem—the legal duty to report does not compel companies to put any kind of action plan in place if their gap is significant. That was apparent at one employer that I visited, which was concentrating on getting a report together but had not given any thought to what it might do to address what was in that report.
In the committee’s report, we not only encourage all reporting businesses to create an action plan, but ask the Government to provide guidance on what that action plan might include. Any company looking to address its gender pay gap could do a lot worse than read our report or view the evidence that was given to us by organisations such as Close the Gap, Engender, Women’s Enterprise Scotland and the fair work convention. I would like any guidance that the Government introduces to be rolled out to all businesses, not just to those with 250-plus employees.
My colleagues have talked about the report’s findings on the importance of closing the gap and on effective mechanisms that companies have used to close the gap, and I will not list those again.
Companies doing progressive, fair and innovative things—the right things, as Patrick Harvie said—were enthusiastic about what that meant for them and their employees. However, we must recognise that, for some reluctant employers, a business and financial argument—one that I am confident will be compelling—needs to be made. Companies without gender pay gaps perform better, attract and keep talent, and have a diversity of approaches, views and skills that makes their work and products better. Those things alone have a massive effect on the bottom line. Addressing the gender pay gap is the right thing to do, but we must make clear to those for whom that is not a motivating factor—lets us face it, there are some people like that out there—that it is also the smart thing to do.
In closing, I say this to companies that have closed the gap and those that are working hard to do so: “Spread the word about the financial and business benefits, analyse the improvements to your bottom line and tell the world. Gender pay gap reporting in itself is not answer—you are the answer.” We should not only ensure that it is reputationally and socially unacceptable to have a pay gap, but make it as clear as we can that it is not good business.16:18
I welcome this opportunity to speak about the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee’s recent report. As a new addition to the committee’s ranks, I was not directly involved in its gender pay inquiry, but I am pleased to congratulate my fellow committee members on the body of work that they produced and on their contributions today.
I welcome the continuing work to address the historical injustice of the gender pay gap and unequal pay between men and women. There can be few things as transparently unfair as failing to pay people the same money for doing the same job, not because of what they do but because of who they are. However, the committee’s focus was wider than that. It looked at differences in opportunities—or at least perceptions of opportunities—that have a clear gendered element, at distinctions between types of occupation that affect even the youngest generation of working people, and at the particular issues around having a family and the choices that people can make.
There has been significant progress recently. From this year onwards, larger businesses will be obliged to publish their gender pay gap figures. That is a significant step in increasing transparency and ensuring that, where issues exist, they are addressed. At the top end of the employment market, the proportion of women on FTSE 100 boards has more than doubled since 2011, but in the wider economy women often find themselves pushed into lower-paying jobs. There are several possible explanations for that, from the sharing of parental responsibilities to issues to do with skills, which I will touch on in a moment.
We know that, for many women, increases to the national living wage and being taken out of paying income tax altogether have provided an additional degree of financial security, but the question of occupational segregation remains significant. To take one example that has already been mentioned, the number of women entering STEM jobs remains worryingly small, despite the often higher pay and opportunities that those professions provide. There is precious little evidence that that will be remedied in the near future. The numbers of young women in schools studying physics, computing and other technical subjects are still at a low level. If anything, the involvement of young women seems to drop off by the time they reach university, college or apprenticeships.
We have seen cuts to STEM education in recent years, but it must be as clear as day that we require more STEM teachers in Scotland and more work to reverse some of the harm that has been done to our colleges. In addition, more girls must be involved in STEM from the earliest ages. To achieve that, STEM subjects must be promoted as a viable career option for young women. That requires closer working between schools and industry and a far greater focus on careers guidance.
Often very blunt gender stereotypes are in place for children at an early age, which can determine what careers children look towards. We can address that problem only by tackling it at a similarly early stage and ensuring that all children are open to the breadth of careers that are available to them. That is part of a slightly wider point. To what extent does our careers guidance prepare young people effectively for work? To what extent are technical and scientific professions promoted? To what extent are the routes into those professions other than through university promoted?
I look forward to the Scottish Government’s STEM strategy, which is due for publication soon. If we are to see change within a generation, the work must commence quickly and be radical rather than piecemeal.
Scottish Conservatives have previously raised concerns about diversity in the modern apprenticeships programme. Gender differences arise not only across the scheme as a whole but when it is broken down into individual frameworks, and some of the very traditional divisions remain. The committee noted that “little progress” has been made here and, by some measures, the situation is getting worse. The target in “Delivering the Young Workforce” to
“reduce to 60 per cent the percentage of Modern Apprenticeship frameworks where the gender balance is 75:25 or worse by 2021”
is far from ambitious, yet there seems to be problems in making modest steps in that direction. Perhaps the roll-out of foundation apprenticeships across Scotland and the closer links with schools present an opportunity to challenge that dynamic.
A feature of the committee’s inquiry was evidence that the problems leading to women receiving lower pay are more present in the Highlands and Islands than they are in Scotland as a whole. Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s submission showed that gender segregation of careers and sectors was more pronounced in the region. HIE’s research also showed that women are more aware of jobs in sectors that are perceived to be lower paid. The contribution that underemployment among women makes to differences in pay is compounded in more rural areas, with HIE pointing to multi-occupational working and the level of part-time and seasonal employment as being significant.
HIE’s work is welcome, but it is clear that the roots behind several of the issues begin at an earlier point and that we need schools, business, enterprise agencies and other public sector bodies to have a more unified focus if we are truly committed to seeing change.
Another component that I welcome is the Digital Scotland publication “Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together”, which HIE, Skills Development Scotland and other bodies are working on together. It makes many of the points that I have spoken about today and its conclusions are very much worth looking at. However, I question whether the identified problems are being addressed for Scotland’s young people in practice and in the level of resource being directed.
To conclude, many of what are long-standing problems will require real focus and resources to address. The benefits, however, will flow not just to individuals but to the wider economy. Again, I thank the committee for its report.16:23
I thank the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee for its work in leading an investigation into this very important topic and for the comprehensive report that it has produced. As parliamentary liaison officer to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, I take great interest in all the committee’s work, but particularly its work in a subject area as key as the gender pay gap.
The potential impact to the economy of balancing the gender pay has been well documented—the committee’s report says that gross domestic product could increase by £17 billion were that to happen. That, of course, assumes that there would be no gender displacement and that women entering the workforce or increasing their hours would not displace men in those roles. That is a reasonable assumption, given the growing skills shortages that we see in the labour market, as highlighted in the report. Furthermore, that deficit is set to increase as a consequence of Brexit.
As the report highlights, there are definitional issues around quantifying the gender pay gap. Issues such as whether to use mean or median and weekly or hourly rates of pay, whether to include or exclude overtime, and the impact of lower hourly rates for part-time work all make quantification—and hence international comparisons—difficult. More work needs to be done on that. We need to understand who in the world is better at this, and to seek to learn from them.
We can see wide variations in the data. There is a clear age-related impact, with the pay gap being significantly smaller for age groups under 40 than it is for those above 40. Whether that is a persistent phenomenon, a consequence of maternity leave and return-to-work barriers or a positive trend, such as the greatly increasing numbers of young women who are entering professions such as law, which will have a consequent impact on older age cohorts in coming decades, is not yet clear. That is an area in which greater understanding would be valuable.
Although examples of pay inequality, whereby women are paid less than men for the same or similar work, still exist, the key drivers of the gender pay gap are highlighted as being occupational segregation, gender variations in part-time employment rates and differential promotion rates. As the report highlights, occupational segregation is often a consequence of gender-based stereotypes, which can exert an influence from an early age and have an impact on career choices. There are no prizes for guessing which two of my four children—a lawyer, a vet, an engineer and an economist—are the girls. That represents an epic fail in the McKee household, so members should not take any lessons from me on gender career stereotypes.
Despite my failings, the area is one that requires focus. Women are expected to go into the caring professions and men into technical work. The focus on getting women into STEM careers is critical. Although that focus has been on the agenda for some considerable time, in many areas limited progress has been made. In my engineering class, only 10 per cent of the students were women. Even then, gender balance was well understood as an area in which improvement was needed. Thirty-five years later, progress has been limited, but the experience in the legal profession and some medical disciplines shows that progress can and is being made.
It is a two-way street. Getting more women into STEM careers means getting more men into traditionally female-dominated jobs, for example in the care and early learning sectors. As the report highlights, seeing more men in the traditionally female-dominated carer-type roles will help us to break the ideological link between women and care and to challenge the idea of the female as caregiver.
The assumption that lengthy child-rearing career gaps for women are inevitable is another outdated gender stereotype that needs to be challenged. As the report points out, in Scotland in 2016, 8 per cent of women aged 16 to 64 were economically inactive because they were looking after the house or the family, whereas only 1 per cent of men were. When my children were at the pre-school stage, I was fortunate enough to be working a shift pattern that allowed me to take on responsibility for much of our childcare, while Mrs McKee returned to full-time work. Most are not so fortunate.
The report raises other important issues, such as flexible working and encouraging female entrepreneurship. I am happy to support such work as a member of the cross-party group on women in enterprise.
In summary, I welcome the report. It is clear that there are areas in which more understanding of the data and the steps that we need to take to make progress is required to enable us to deliver the societal changes and the economic benefits of closing the gender pay gap.
We have a little time in hand, so I can give all the closing speakers an additional minute. I do not think that you will have any difficulty with that, Ms Baillie. I ask you to close for Labour, please.16:28
Sorry—[Interruption.] It went down the wrong way. I am not the first woman today to have a coughing fit. The other one was slightly longer. [Interruption.]
Take a moment.
It is okay—and I do not need a lozenge, either.
Speaker after speaker has acknowledged that women’s employment is more precarious than men’s. We are the part-time, low-paid workforce. Many of us are on zero-hours contracts and employed in the gig economy. We are more likely to be consumers of public services, more likely to be in poverty and more likely to be in receipt of social security benefits. Far too many women are in underemployment, working well below their qualification level. That is such a waste of talent and a waste for our economy.
As I said earlier, closing the gender pay gap would inject £17 billion into the Scottish economy. That matters even more now because of the fiscal framework, because if we do not sustain levels of growth that are the same as or higher than those in the rest of the UK, we might be on the end of a block grant reduction. Let us take a year-on-year comparison. Scotland’s economy grew by 0.2 per cent over the past year. The equivalent UK growth was 1.5 per cent. That may have serious implications for what we receive through the block grant, and I do not think that the Scottish Government has woken up to that.
Closing the gender pay gap is a no-brainer if we are serious about our economy and our long-term finances. The causes of the pay gap are common across the world, but some countries have been better than us at closing it—Belgium, Luxembourg and Norway, to name but a few. We need to understand what they do that works and copy them unashamedly.
Let me highlight some of the key recommendations that many across the chamber have touched on. The first recommendation is a national strategy with an action plan and measurable targets. It makes sense when you have a complex and interconnected set of problems that you need to have a plan. The response from the Government is to have a scoping exercise to determine feasibility. That is a little weak. Why can you not just say yes, there will be a national strategy, and then work through what it needs to cover?
The second point that has been raised is the role of the enterprise agencies. Women account for 49 per cent of start-ups but only 3.4 per cent of growth companies. For years, research undertaken by Women’s Enterprise Scotland and others has pointed to the need for gender-specific support for women-led businesses, but it really has not been provided. If GDP in Scotland reflected women starting up in business at the same rate as men, we would contribute £7.6 billion to the Scottish economy. What is not to like about that? The Scottish Government has pledged to double the women’s enterprise budget. It is only £200,000 at the moment. Just think what we could do if we gave that initiative more money, never mind mainstreaming consideration for women’s enterprise and tackling women’s economic inequality as part of our enterprise agencies.
While we are on the enterprise agencies, we should put our money where our mouth is. The Scottish Government should redesign the business pledge. It is not fit for purpose on gender equality. For those businesses that get millions of pounds in regional selective assistance, we should be asking for gender pay gap reports and action plans as standard. I do not think that the Scottish Government’s response agreed to that. Where is the political will and the priority? If we do not embrace the recommendations, little will change.
Gillian Martin was right to talk about the limitations of gender pay gap reporting as proposed by the UK Government. The majority of companies in the Scottish economy have fewer than 250 employees, so the new requirement to report the gap will not touch them. She was also right to ask how we could use procurement, or even enterprise agency account managed companies, to make a difference. I am not sure that I saw a positive response from the Scottish Government on that.
Close the Gap tells us that existing responses to tackling the pay gap are insufficient. Together with Engender, it has been clear about the need for a national strategy. So tell us, minister, are you going to do this? I said that the Scottish Government’s response was weak. I would rather be wrong about that, and let me tell you why. Your response refers to the fair work convention, inclusive growth, enterprise agency activity and the business pledge, all of which are, in and of themselves, positive initiatives, but they do not really engage with tackling the gender pay gap.
Let us get behind the committee report. It is bold, ambitious and challenging to us all, and I want the Scottish Government to be equally bold and ambitious. We have a chance to change things for generations of women, but if you just want to carry on as before, it will be 140 years before we close that gap. Frankly, minister, our daughters cannot wait that long. Neither can our economy.
My goodness—you did not use the entire seven minutes.
I can continue.
No, thank you.
I remind members about the use of “you” and “yours”. In this Parliament, you speak through the chair. We are all slipping into a little habit that I suggest we slip out of.16:34
In closing the debate for the Scottish Conservatives, I begin by pointing out the unity that is apparent among members in our determination to close the gender pay gap, even if there are slight differences in how we think that is to be achieved. I pay tribute to my colleague Gordon Lindhurst and all the members of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee for working so diligently to produce the report. The Scottish Conservatives welcome it and its recommendations.
Women in the workforce continue to be concentrated in low-paid industries and part-time work. We share the view of many individuals who tweeted their opinions. The tweets ranged from people saying that
“valuing women’s work means recognising”
the value of
“women’s contribution to the economy”,
to people saying that
“when women thrive, we all benefit”.
There were many others.
Many speeches by members from across the chamber have highlighted a lot of the aims that many of us share in respect of trying to close the pay gap. Jamie Halcro Johnston highlighted evidence that the gap is particularly marked in the Highlands and Islands, Dean Lockhart pointed out that the problem is not unique to Scotland, and Oliver Mundell talked about the value of women occupying leading and public roles.
Jackie Baillie expressed concern at the state of the Scottish economy and stated that if growth suffers, that affects the gender pay gap, and Ash Denham referred to the PWC report and the motherhood penalty, which I will come back to later. Alex Cole-Hamilton outlined a whole-systems approach to gender discrimination. Many other members—too many to mention individually—made valid and useful points, although some points were made with which we cannot agree.
However, closing the gap is not only the right thing to do, as Patrick Harvie made clear: the potential economic benefits of doing so have been highlighted by a number of bodies, including CBI Scotland, which wrote in its evidence to the committee that
“closing the gender pay gap increases the competitiveness of individual companies and the profitability of the economy as a whole.”
That is a positive view—especially when seen alongside further anecdotal evidence. However, as the committee noted, more study needs to be done to confirm the correlation between bottom-line improvements and closing the gender pay gap. Again, that is something that we would welcome.
Other proposals made by the committee, including the creation of a more gender-diverse apprenticeship programme for women returning to work, are positive steps in the right direction. Similarly, we hope that the Scottish Government will note the committee’s recommendations regarding the calls to boost the number of public sector jobs that offer flexible working hours, for more recognition of the role of the care sector, and to put more emphasis on getting enterprise agencies to address gender pay issues in their sectors. In a country in which only 20 per cent of SMEs are owned by women, the recommendation that the Scottish Government and its agencies review the funding streams that are available to new and existing female entrepreneurs is very welcome—in particular, in the light of anecdotal evidence that male entrepreneurs are more successful in obtaining capital than female entrepreneurs are.
We heard members talk about the need for us, as a nation, to do more to encourage more girls to study science and technology subjects. With women holding only 18 per cent of jobs in the well-paid technology sector, and a mere 9 per cent in engineering, there is huge scope for girls who are able to study such subjects. In 2015, Education Scotland highlighted the fact that girls made up only 20 per cent of those who were studying advanced higher computing and 28 per cent of those who were studying what was then the new higher physics course. Those figures are disappointing, as is the low uptake of STEM subjects by girls at college and university levels, and the situation contributes to gross underrepresentation of women in well-paid jobs in those sectors.
Members highlighted caring issues as another reason for the gender pay gap. Whether the care is provided to children, or to sick or elderly relatives, it is a role that is still very much played by women. Many employers fail to recognise that and continue to show a lack of flexibility on working hours, which leads more women to seek part-time work.
A particularly troubling section in the report refers to what is described in it as the motherhood penalty, which is the pay gap between working mothers and women without dependent children. The penalty can mean that the pay of returning mums falls behind that of other women by as much as 11 per cent. On that issue, I found the comments to the committee from family friendly working Scotland to be particularly salient, as were the words of Professor Loretto, who highlighted the issue of the work choices of grandparents of working age being affected by their taking on caring roles.
The Scottish Conservatives see the report as a starting point. We support the recommendations and look forward to the Scottish Government and all sectors of our economy—public and private—building on those recommendations and doing their bit to close the gender pay gap.16:40
I thank members for their contributions. There has been broad agreement. It is clear that no one in the chamber, not least the Scottish Government, is not serious about the agenda. I regret that Jackie Baillie feels that our response to the report is “weak”, but she is entitled to her perspective. Of course, it is entirely incumbent on her to push us to do more, and I expect her to do that. I have had another look over how we responded to the committee’s recommendations, and my observation is that virtually all of them tally entirely with work that we are taking forward. Clearly, there are areas that we can look at again; I am always willing to do that.
I agree with Jackie Baillie that it is important for us to engage in the agenda. She referred to her daughter, and Alex Cole-Hamilton mentioned his. I have a daughter, too, and I do not want her to grow up in a society—no: let me put it in a positive way. I want her to grow up in a society in which there is no gender pay gap. That is my aspiration for her and for all our daughters.
Of course, some of the issues that persist are entrenched and long standing. They are attitudinal and they start very early, when our children are young. Ivan McKee was probably being a little hard on himself in that regard; I am sure that he is very proud of all the achievements of his children. I believe that every member who has spoken is totally and utterly committed to the agenda, but I suspect that we will ourselves be susceptible to lapsing into using language and providing toys and so on that reinforce gender stereotypes. We have to start by reminding ourselves that we must seek to avoid doing that.
I will pick up on some issues that have been raised. Dean Lockhart mentioned the UK Government’s regulations on private sector gender pay gap reporting. I welcome those as being at least an acknowledgement of the systemic pay inequality that women experience, but I agree with Gillian Martin and Jackie Baillie that they are not in themselves likely to drive the change that we need. They are rather limited because of the threshold of 250 employees, which excludes the vast majority of private sector companies and most third sector organisations in Scotland. Clearly, we cannot alter that legislation, which is reserved, but we can lead by example; we have a significantly lower threshold for our public agencies here in Scotland.
Gillian Martin and Jackie Baillie spoke about efforts that could be made through our enterprise agencies relating to the provision of regional selective assistance grants and account managed companies. We are going through an enterprise and skills review, but we continue to explore with our agencies how we can increase the number of businesses that produce pay gap reports. We are looking at that very seriously, but right now the agencies can signpost businesses to relevant available guidance, such as Close the Gap’s think business, think equality toolkit, which is available to companies of all sizes. In a moment, I will come back to why it is important to talk about the issue in economic terms.
Ash Denham mentioned the motherhood penalty. I am acutely aware of some of the issues that drive that, which is why we have established a working group to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination, which I chair. The group involves many of the inquiry witnesses, including the NHS, Police Scotland and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Those issues are why we have also established a women returners programme. I willingly accept that that programme is limited at this stage: it is designed to pilot initiatives so that we can see good practice. I have to say here and now that it will never be something that the Government can entirely lead. We need all sectors, particularly the private sector, to be willing to step up to the plate. We want to get good practice from the pilots so that we can work with employers to see more support for women who are returning to the workplace.
Does the minister agree with Audit Scotland that the cuts of 152,000 college places have impacted on women’s ability to return to work?
We have set out our clear commitment to support 116,000 full-time equivalent places and that is what we have provided. Last month, I announced a flexible workforce development fund, which will allow employers to support those who need to be upskilled in the workplace. Many women will benefit from that. We have refocused individual learning accounts as individual training accounts, which can be delivered through the college network and can be designed to support upskilling of low-paid women.
Alison Harris spoke about the need to support flexible working. We are signed up to that agenda: we fund and participate in family friendly working Scotland. She also mentioned a committee recommendation that referred to the Government, our agencies and the Scottish Parliament. I do not think that the Presiding Officer would like me to veer into what the Scottish Parliament might do, and I am sure that the parliamentary authorities will reflect on the recommendation. It asks that all of us
“ensure that all roles are advertised as flexible, agile or part-time, unless there is a business reason not to do so.”
All Scottish Government staff, including senior civil servants, are encouraged to participate in our flexible working hours scheme. We require our managers to consider all flexible working requests objectively and sensitively.
There is much more that I want to say, but I am not going to be able to say it.
You have some time. I can give you another two minutes.
Well, let me get on with it. That is what I will do.
I could not have put it better myself.
Thank you, Presiding Officer—I think.
I want to touch on childcare in two ways. First, our expansion of childcare agenda will itself support many more families to be better able to balance their work and caring responsibilities. I want to assure Jackie Baillie that I completely recognise the economic opportunity not just for those who benefit from childcare but for those who provide it. We have provided local authorities with an additional £21 million to invest in the first stage of the workforce expansion. We have a commitment to have an additional 435 graduates working in nurseries in the most deprived communities by August 2018. To support that commitment, we are providing £1.5 million in additional funding to the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council to increase teacher training in childcare-related graduate places. Skills Development Scotland is providing training opportunities for childcare, and we have a commitment to pay the living wage to all those who deliver funded entitlements.
I do not want anyone to be under the impression that I do not take that sector seriously. In Patrick Harvie’s language, I do not want to “undervalue” the sector. Perhaps we need to switch the language that we use: instead of saying that the sector is undervalued, let us show leadership in Parliament and say how we value the sector. We will deliver as an Administration.
I invite the minister to show leadership by making the sector a key growth sector that is the responsibility of our enterprise agencies, as well.
I am happy to speak to the enterprise agencies. I make the point that this is a whole-system commitment and our skills agencies are engaged.
I will probably have to close on this next point—
Yes, you will.
Richard Leonard was right to identify the need for us to tackle low pay. We have done well in Scotland: 80 per cent of our population are paid the living wage or more. I accept absolutely that we need now to focus on the remaining 20 per cent, which represents women in low-paid work more than men. We promote the living wage and I want to see more than an “in principle” commitment to paying the living wage: I want a hard and fast commitment. Mr Leonard might have been referring to something else in his comments, but I will let that stand.
Let me finish—
Yes. Please do, now.
This will be my final point, Presiding Officer.
Patrick Harvie was right to talk about the intrinsic good and self-evident worth of closing the pay gap. I totally agree with that point, but it is important that we talk about it as an economic imperative. It is the same with the fair work agenda; payment of the living wage, flexible working and workers’ involvement in the workplace increase retention, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity. Closing the pay gap can achieve the same.
There we must end, or you are cutting into the committee summing up.
I agree with—
No, minister. Thank you very much.16:50
I thank the Presiding Officer for protecting the back benchers against the front benchers.
Members: Hear, hear.
I start on a consensual note by thanking everyone who has taken part in today’s debate and I emphasise our thanks as a committee to the wide range of witnesses. We spent a considerable time on the issue and, as sub-groups, we visited a number of businesses around the country, which was tremendously helpful, certainly for me. I thank the Scottish Parliament information centre for its help and I thank the committee clerks, and I particularly mention our adviser, Jane Gotts, who had a tremendous input.
It is fair to say that the debate has been broadly consensual, and that is true of the study that the committee did. However, it must be accepted that some committee members are more consensual than others—I shall leave it to members to decide who I might be referring to.
I will start with general points that the convener, in opening on the committee’s behalf, was not able to spend a lot of time on. I will then mention individual contributions.
A number of speakers have mentioned occupational segregation, which Close the Gap also mentioned. Throughout its inquiry, the committee sought to understand the challenges that women who work across the public and private sectors still face. As the convener said, the pay gap impacts on women at all stages of their working lives. The committee heard many reasons for that, and occupational segregation is a key factor. Women have historically clustered in sectors that are traditionally low paid—they are sometimes called the five Cs: cleaning, caring, catering, clerical and cashiering—and that pattern continues. There are fewer women in higher-paid sectors such as engineering, IT and technology. Equate Scotland told the committee that only 18 per cent of technical jobs and 9 per cent of engineering jobs are held by women, as Alison Harris said.
The committee heard quite a lot about the leaky pipeline; if people do not look at anything else in the report, looking at the infographic on that is worth while. It shows that, even when things start well, there is drift through the system. Women can fall out of certain sectors, especially if they take a career break. STEM is an area with high-paying jobs and increasing opportunities, so plugging the leaky pipeline is essential to reducing the gender pay gap. Some factors that witnesses said cause leaks throughout the pipeline are starting school—young children say very early that there are boys’ jobs and girls’ jobs; a lack of role models in STEM industries, with fewer women in senior positions; and difficulties in returning to the workforce.
Apprenticeships have been mentioned by a number of people, including the minister and Jamie Halcro Johnston. The committee noted the successes of the modern apprenticeship model in providing opportunities for young people and employers alike but, despite considerable efforts, little progress has been made in addressing occupational segregation through the modern apprenticeship system. In 2015-16, for example, there were no female apprentices in the civil engineering specialism in construction. The committee notes the work that is being done by Skills Development Scotland, which is welcomed.
The reporting legislation has been largely touched on, particularly by Gillian Martin, who spent most of her speech on it. We heard quite a lot of evidence about the fact that the UK legislation requires organisations to have 250 staff or more to report, which leaves out rather a lot of people in Scotland, as Dean Lockhart said.
Targets were not mentioned much, but we heard a bit about them. There was some sympathy on the committee for the idea that there should be a bit more in the way of targets. Targets have value because they move things forward.
On conditions on business support and procurement, the committee heard that there might be an opportunity to address the gender pay gap by placing conditions on economic development aid or procurement in key sectors of the Scottish economy.
Scottish Enterprise and HIE have a slightly difficult job, so I have some sympathy for them, but we were unhappy about their attitude. Other groups accepted that there is a problem and wanted to challenge it, but we got the impression at times, especially from Scottish Enterprise, that the enterprise agencies wanted to attract businesses and did not want to put them off by telling them that they had to have more women in their organisations.
I will use my final few minutes to touch on some of the things that members have said. Gordon Lindhurst emphasised the difficulties of measuring the pay gap and said that it is complex. I was glad that the minister appreciated and agreed with that point.
In her two speeches, Jackie Baillie was perhaps one of the more aggressive speakers—
Just a minute, Mr Mason. I cannot hear what you are saying because of the casual conversations that are taking place across the chamber.
I realise that I am keeping members from the upcoming debate.
I am listening.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I appreciate that.
Jackie Baillie brought up the question of how we measure GDP and Patrick Harvie was correct to challenge her on that. The committee will look at that in its inquiries on data and the performance of the economy. However, in one of our subsequent evidence sessions, we have already had evidence in the form of a clear statement from a witness that growing the economy does not automatically make it fairer. I certainly believe that, even if the economy does not grow, we need to make it fairer today.
Other members, including Ash Denham, talked about the positive impact on the economy of women fulfilling their potential and working with their qualifications. Richard Leonard talked about more women being on the living wage and the fact that there are conceptual living wage employers; I am sympathetic to that point.
Patrick Harvie made the point that putting the Queen at the top of the whole system as head of state does not automatically mean that women at the bottom will do better; we would probably all agree with that.
Alex Cole-Hamilton talked about devolution. We must accept that there are many issues around the gender pay gap that do not fall under devolution and which we do not yet have control over.
The gender pay gap cannot be addressed overnight. Even in Sweden, the gap is still at something like 13 per cent. Addressing the gap will take time. The committee will continue to monitor this policy area in budget scrutiny work and we will consider carefully the Scottish Government’s response to our report. There is no doubt that supporting women at all levels and in all sectors to achieve their potential will benefit Scotland’s economy. That would be good for women and good for all of us.