Gender pay gap action plan: annual report

This progress report provides an update on actions within the Fairer Scotland for Women: Gender Pay Gap Action Plan since publication in 2019. It also sets out our future priorities for continuing to advance work on this issue across Scottish Government as part of our economic recovery and renewal.

Chapter 8 Economic Development

Tackling inequalities, including gender economic inequality, and providing fair work unlocks people's creativity, confidence and wellbeing which builds the business case for a strong, inclusive economy. It helps our businesses to innovate and grow, it helps them to compete more effectively on the world stage. It helps develop, attract, and make, the most of our talent in Scotland. Delivering this type of ambition relies on investing in the quality of our infrastructure, our public health, and the support that is available to those who need it. 

This chapter looked at actions to ensure gender was considered as part of our approach to economic growth by considering an approach that treated child and adult care as economic infrastructure, improving female rates of entrepreneurship, looking to address how current transport provision can create further barriers to women accessing employment and educational opportunities and ensuring that future changes to the labour market such as automation consider gender implications.

Unpaid Care 

Historically domestic responsibilities such as child and adult care and housework have fallen to women which limits their ability to access training and job opportunities. Pre-COVID, women did a disproportionate amount of unpaid housework and caring in the household. For example, a much higher proportion of economically inactive women (25.3%) cite 'looking after family/home' as a reason for inactivity in the labour market, compared with men (6.8%).[28] COVID-19 has exacerbated these gendered norms with school and nursery closures, housework and childcare has fallen more on women than men, which may make it harder for them to maintain or take on employment.[29] Compared with fathers, mothers are spending less time on paid work but more time on household responsibilities and the differences in work patterns between mothers and fathers have grown since before the crisis.

Unpaid care drives the gender pay gap as women are more likely to work in part-time roles at lower pay, are a higher and increasing proportion of workers on zero hours contracts, and are more likely to be 'second earner' in opposite sex couples. 

All of these features of women's labour market participation are a product of gendered assumptions about women's roles and proclivities that are reinforced by the way in which our society has organised work and domestic life.[30]

Survey data from Carers UK suggests there may now be as many as 1.1 million unpaid carers in Scotland, 61% of whom are women.[31] To support carers we continue to promote awareness and flexibility for unpaid carers in the workplace through Carer Positive. The Carer Positive employer accreditation scheme encourages organisations in Scotland to have fair and flexible working practices for employees to help ensure that carers can return to and remain in work alongside their caring role. As of February 2021, 207 employers have been assessed as Carer Positive, including 50 employers at the higher 'exemplary' or 'established' levels. The total number of employees working for Carer Positive organisations in Scotland has now reached 449,000. This has increased from 68 employers with 249,000 employees in December 2016. A Coronavirus Carer's Allowance Supplement of £230.10 paid in June, backed by an investment of £19.2 million benefitting around 83,000 unpaid carers. 

Going forward we will look in more detail at how women's disproportionate unpaid care responsibilities drives the gender pay gap, bringing together work being taken forward across policy areas in government and investigate potential mechanisms to address this issue. 

Treating childcare and social care as economic infrastructure 

An initial scoping meeting was held with relevant cross-government policy officials in March 2020 to consider this issue.

The discussion noted that physical infrastructure like roads, rail and broadband provide services that help the economy to function efficiently. As such they are viewed as "economic infrastructure", and investment in them tends to pay greater attention to the contributions they make to growing the country's economic potential, in addition to the benefits to users. This can sometimes lead to more favourable investment decisions for these. While provision of childcare and social care services contribute to the efficient functioning of the economy in an equally beneficial way, mainly through their impact on the labour market, policy assessment of their value has tended to focus mainly on benefits to users, with limited consideration for knock-on impacts to the wider economy. 

Women tend to have higher inactivity rates than men partially driven by the fact that women disproportionately take on unpaid childcare and social care duties. SG has already taken significant steps to expand provision of ELC, starting from Aug 2021 to 1140 hours a year, for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds. If child care and social care provision is extended so that it is available to all people, to fit with the concept of 'economic infrastructure', it has potential to unlock for the economy and society even more talent and skills, and to increase efficiency in our labour market through higher employment rates for parents and other unpaid care providers and specifically women. Higher levels of employment would boost consumption and economic growth throughout the economy, and contribute to improving wellbeing. 

In treating childcare and social care as economic infrastructure in common with "physical infrastructure", the focus needs to be on understanding their benefits beyond users, durability of impacts, impacts on local economy and wider social outcomes. And, to be most effective as economic infrastructure, childcare and social care provision must be designed to have the same attributes that are often associated with the efficiency of physical infrastructure. This work was paused due to COVID-19 and will be taken forward during 2021-22 and will be considered in the context of the joint Scottish Government and COSLA Reform of Adult Social Care Programme.

How transport infrastructure investment impacts on the gender pay gap in transport appraisal

Our second National Transport Strategy (NTS2), published in February 2020, is a catalyst for change, setting out a compelling vision for the kind of transport system we all want for Scotland over the next 20 years. There are four priorities to support this vision: to reduce inequalities, take climate action, help deliver inclusive economic growth, and improve health and wellbeing. We have reflected in the NTS2 that the gendered division of labour means that women tend to take on a disproportionate level of care and domestic tasks compared to men, and that this influences their travel behaviour. Inadequate provision of transport to suit this behaviour can create further barriers to women accessing employment and educational opportunities. 

Although work on implementing the Strategy was paused due to COVID-19, we recommenced activity and have since published the NTS2's first annual Delivery Plan on 17 December 2020. We continue to develop our understanding of transport and gender challenges through a number of Impact Assessments. The first interim report (published 12 October 2020) on the Transport Transition Plan Equality Impact Assessment found that that the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on the basis of gender. Specifically, women are disproportionately represented in health and social care sectors, along with hospitality, tourism and retail occupations, sectors and roles which increase exposure to COVID-19 and are more likely to need travel to work. Women are more likely to rely on public transport, and to engage in less direct journey patterns to facilitate caring responsibilities. Public transport use is noted as an aggravating risk factor, which puts women at an even greater risk of exposure to the virus when commuting, working, visiting a doctor or doing essential shopping. This is especially the case with single parents, the majority of which are female, who are less likely to have a car due to financial circumstances.

In addition, we recognise that improved data collection and analysis on, for example women's travel patterns and experiences, is necessary to set baselines and robustly evaluate the impact of interventions and investment in the transport system. We are arranging for future statistical publications to feature a section on gender and transport, making visible the gender disaggregated data that we collect through Scottish Household Survey. 

We are looking at how to improve data collection and analysis with a focus on women's travel patterns and experiences. Further work in this area is planned for 2021, including themes such as safety when travelling and access to employment through transport. Outputs from this work will feed into the update to STAG as set out in the NTS2 Delivery Plan and this action in the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan, and set the direction of future work on gender and transport. The updated appraisal guidance will include the consideration of the causes of the Gender Pay Gap in transport appraisal and is due for review and publication later this year.

Increase support for female led enterprises 

We committed to ensuring that tackling the gender pay gap is considered and 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. An EQIA was published in February 2019 alongside the Scottish National Investment Bank Bill. This was further revised following feedback from gender equalities groups. 

Implementation of several relevant provisions of the Scottish National Investment Bank Act 2020 includes the requirement to develop a Gender Equality Strategy and to conduct periodic equal pay reviews.

We continue to nurture a strong ecosystem of support for entrepreneurs in Scotland to ensure that together, existing and new women-led businesses can create the jobs and opportunities on which our recovery will be built. As a Government, we are fully committed to tackling the entrepreneurial gender gap. Through our Women in Enterprise Framework, we continue to support a range of initiatives to increase participation of women in business in Scotland. 

The Scottish Government, is developing a new model for the delivery of gender-specific, gender-aware and gender-tailored business support, under a refreshed Women in Enterprise Framework which will be developed over 2021-2022. 

Making gender mainstreaming central to the work of the Enterprise & Skills Strategic Board 

Through our Fair Work First approach we are promoting fair work practices across the labour market in Scotland, including through our partnership with the enterprise and skills agencies. We expect the criteria which asks employers to take action to tackle the gender pay gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace to improve workplace experiences for women.

In its report, Coronavirus (COVID-19): measures to mitigate the labour market impacts, published July 2020, the Enterprise & Skills Strategic Board Sub Group recognised the important role for Fair Work in addressing the labour market emergency through the alignment of Fair Work principles with the agencies' business support interventions. This includes a recommendation to develop appropriate tool kit with services to enable businesses to consider innovative workplace practices consistent with the principles of Fair Work and enabling the adoption of efficient working practices. Accordingly, the agencies have committed to embedding Fair Work First criteria in existing and new schemes and funds. Additionally, Scottish Enterprise has worked closely with its business partners to development Fair Work Employer Support Tool aiming to help employers adopt fair work practices, which was published in January 2021. These tools will support gender mainstreaming within business and other organisations across Scotland.

The annual strategic guidance from Scottish Ministers to the enterprise and skills agencies makes clear their expectation that Fair Work First criteria will be applied to the agencies' functions as both employers and the stewards of substantial public funding through which they deliver Scottish Government priorities, including in relation to tackling the gender pay gap.

Considering gender in the future labour market 

Given the importance of automation and artificial intelligence to the economy and future labour market, we looked to ensure that closing the gender pay gap and its causes are central to all relevant policy analysis in this area.

Scotland's Future Skills Action Plan highlights both the challenges and opportunities of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and digitalisation in our future labour market. Commentators fail to agree on the long term impacts on jobs but it is clear that the changes to how we do our jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated a move to on-line services that are unlikely to be reversed. It is therefore key that as we develop strategies setting out Scotland's ambitions in areas like AI, diversity should be a key principle of the actions underpinning them.

The Scottish Government is committed to developing an AI strategy to help ensure that Scotland maximises the potential economic and social benefits of AI, and sends a strong signal to the world about our ambition. Due to be published in spring 2021, the intent is for the strategy to have benefit to people in Scotland as its core guiding principle, be aligned with the National Performance Framework and also aim to enable economic growth. The strategy will set out a vision for AI in Scotland and the principles – addressing areas including diversity, human rights, inclusivity, fairness and justice, as well as accountability and transparency around the use of AI – that will guide work to realise this. Gender equalities experts Close the Gap participated in the AI Strategy Ethical & Regulatory Frameworks Working Group. 

Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together is a workstream originating from research commissioned by Skills Development Scotland's Digital Technologies Skills Group to better understand the gender imbalance in the technology job roles and in the technology sector. 

This research evolved into an action plan and, in partnership with industry, Skills Development Scotland launched a gender action plan to look at interventions designed to target females at each stage of the tech talent pipeline and workforce. From increasing access of young girls to tech learning, through to supporting employers to attract, recruit and progress more females within their tech workplaces.

This work is ongoing and has included:

  • Collaboration with Girlguiding Scotland and Education Scotland to offer Scotland's first tech skills badge to Girlguiding members 5-18yrs
  • Working with Education Scotland to blend technology learning into subjects that have greater appeal to females including French, History and English
  • Working with Equate Scotland to deliver a best practice guide and webinars for tech employers to learn how to better attract, recruit, retain and progress females in their workforce
  • Working with Girlgeeks Scotland to create training and resources to support younger females in technology occupations to act as role models for school-age children
  • Series of events to raise awareness of the need to tackle the gender imbalance in tech with practical advice and case studies of best practice from a range of partners including schools, clubs, college, universities, training providers, employers and support organisations who have all been successful in engaging and supporting females into digital technology
  • Integrating diversity and gender into everything that is delivered for digital skills, for example, ensuring that Digital World and promotional careers activities all consider how to target women.

The number of women in tech has risen from 18% to 23.4% but we know much more needs to be done to encourage more females into technology and we continue to work with partners through our industry-led technology gender workstream. 

Actions we will take forward in 2021-2022

In addition to taking forward the work we have started above. We will also take forward the actions below 

  • Develop an approach to treat investment in childcare and social care as economic infrastructure.
  • we will look in more detail at how women's disproportionate unpaid care responsibilities drives the gender pay gap, bringing together work being taken forward across policy areas in government and investigate potential mechanisms to address this issue



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