Monday, 8 March 2021
International Women's Day: Statements
It is good to see the Minister in the Chamber. In the short time available to me, I want to address the profound impact that the pandemic has had on women workers in particular and on their position in the world of work.We already know that between the end of 2019 and the end of 2020, approximately 13,600 women left the labour force. These are women who had to retire early, who were forced to leave their work because of caring responsibilities or who have lost their job and are not seeking work any longer. I think today of the women who have been in contact with me who have children with intellectual disabilities who have had no services available to them on and off for nearly 12 months at this stage. They were forced to leave their job. I also think of the couple who were both essential front-line workers who made a decision in September for the woman to leave her job because they felt they would not be able to provide cover for their children if one of the children had to leave school due to being a close contact. There are plenty more like those women. There are other women who have had to take unpaid leave because they simply could not find childcare for their children under the age of one year. I am pleased to see the Bill to extend parental leave will be debated in the House this Friday, but it is nearly eight months since the Government announced the extension of parental leave. Eight months is too long for women who have been hanging on, with no option but to stay at home from work because they could not get childcare.
While the pandemic has not been great for women in the workplace, it is not all bad. Some 45,000 women lost their part-time jobs last year or moved out of part-time employment, but there was an increase of 15,000 women in full-time employment. The ability to work from home has provided opportunities for some women who previously could not work full time to do so now.
I will conclude on a positive note. I welcome the Minister's commitment to bring forward the legislation to deal with the gender-pay gap legislation in the next fortnight. I very much welcome the EU directive on pay transparency introduced by the European Commission last week. I hope the Government will support that. If we are serious about improving the lot of low-paid women in this country it is important that the Government would support the EU directive on adequate minimum wages. We know that approximately 29% of all women are in low-paid work and two thirds of all those on the minimum wage are women, so it is vital that the Government supports the directive.