A fairer Scotland for women: gender pay gap action plan

Our action plan setting out a list of actions that will be taken to address the many drivers of the gender pay gap.

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Chapter 8 Economic Development

The Scottish Government approach to economic development is very much rooted in delivering inclusive economic growth. Our progressive approach is built upon growing evidence that economic inequality is itself a drag on growth. The gender pay gap is a clear and long-standing example of this. If we fail to address the gender pay gap within our economic policy making we will also fail to realise optimal economic returns.

What we are doing

We are committed to ensuring that all of our people can reap the benefits of enterprise because we recognise that this will make for stronger and more sustainable growth. Some research points to women having lower expectations when it comes to growing businesses. It is thought that this is due to women’s lower level of confidence in starting businesses[57]. Self-confidence is not an individualised problem however, but a culmination of societal attitudes that results in lower female entrepreneurship rates[58]. These attitudes are shaped by a number of elements including gendered entrepreneurial spaces and male-dominated networks, women starting businesses with lower levels of capital and a number of other factors identified within this Plan.

That a gender-gap exists in enterprise is not in question. That is why the Women in Enterprise Action Framework[59] was launched in 2014 and refreshed in 2017 with the aim to deliver lasting positive change working with partners from all sectors. This action plan sits alongside this Framework. The agenda is currently being led by the Women in Enterprise Action Group, chaired by the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills.

The City Region and Growth Deals in Scotland are about making step changing investments. The recently agreed Deals specifically identify activities and support to tackle the gender pay gap within their regions. For example, the Scottish Government has invested £25 million for a Regional Employability and Skills programme within the Edinburgh and South East Scotland Regional Deal. This programme will involve supporting women into higher paid jobs and assisting women to return to work after a career break. Women will also be targeted for advanced skills and training opportunities, and there will also be increased engagement with employers in the region to raise their awareness and develop support for this target group. Regional partners will ensure that any evaluation of the Deal considers how effectively the Programme has been in reducing the gender pay gap.

As part of the City Region and Growth Deals, a number of local and regional partners are also undertaking inclusive growth diagnostics to understand their priorities for driving long-term transformational change and achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the economy. This process includes identifying and focusing on the groups most excluded from the benefits of growth – the North Ayrshire diagnostic, for example, particularly focused on female labour market outcomes. 

According to some research across the UK, some 30% of women[60] have no access to a car particularly during the working day because either they cannot afford one or the family car is used by their partner for work. This can mean that a journey to work via school or childcare drop-off might involve several changes and a long commuting time. In Scotland, while men and women are almost equally likely to drive to work, we know that more women are more likely to travel by bus to work than men[61]. It has been argued by some UK researchers that some public transport timetables are designed for the ‘male’ working day rather than recognising part-time and flexible worker needs and that this can lead to women seeking work to choose a more local, lower paid, job. Although this problem can occur in major cities, it is even more apparent in rural areas. Indeed these challenges were raised at the 2018 Scottish Rural Parliament. We therefore acknowledge that more research into the transport needs of carers is required.

Within social care services, the workforce comprises nearly 8% of all employment in Scotland, with the adult social care alone employing 143,600 staff in 2017 (Scottish Social Service Sector: Report on 2017 Workforce Data) and estimated to contribute £3.4 billion in direct, indirect and induced value to the Scottish economy in 2016. The workforce is predominantly female, for example in care at home and housing support there are 82% female/18% male staff while a similar split exists in care homes for adults (85% of female). 

The Fair Work Convention Social Care Working Group was established to look at the extent to which the fair work agenda is being realised in the social care sector. The sector is recognised as having significant strengths and elements of best practice but at the same time the Convention identified challenges to Fair Work being experienced by many frontline staff in the sector. The Fair Work Convention published[62] their report on 26 February 2019 which makes five recommendations including for the Scottish Government to support the creation of a new sector body that establishes minimum standards for fair work terms and conditions and to reform social care commissioning. 

While the Scottish Government has made important commitments to a gender-focussed economic analysis this is only a start. As we take forward this action plan, gender will be increasingly be at the heart of economic policy making and economic development operations. 

In 2019 and beyond we will:

  • Develop an approach to treat investment in childcare and social care as economic infrastructure. 
  • Ask the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board and the boards of the enterprise and skills agencies to make gender and the gender pay gap a central mainstream part of their work.
  • Undertake research into how transport infrastructure investment impacts on the gender pay gap in transport appraisal; this will then be incorporated into Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG).
  • Ensure that the gender pay gap is included in work on the new Scottish National Investment Bank’s Equality Impact Assessment. This will take full account of research, learning and engagement with WiSE Centre for Economic Justice and other relevant stakeholders. This will ensure the Bank’s intended leadership role with regards to diversity and inclusiveness in its governance, operational arrangements and its Investment Strategy is fully embedded.
  • As outlined in the Fair Work Action Plan – work with the Fair Work Convention to help embed fair work practices in the health and social care sector. This will be informed by the Fair Work Convention’s Social Care Inquiry Report.
  • Given the importance of automation and artificial intelligence to the economy and labour market going forward, we will ensure that closing the gender pay gap and its causes are central to all relevant policy analysis in this area.


Email: lorraine.lee2@gov.scot

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