ALMOST £4bn would be added to Scotland’s economy by levelling-up female workforce participation to match the highest performing region of the UK.
Scotland has jumped from fourth to second place in the latest PwC Women in Work Index, however the research found that if Scotland could match the South West of England, there would be a 2.7% boost to the nation’s GVA, equivalent to £3.8bn or 75,000 new full- and part-time jobs.
Scotland had topped the Index in 2017 before falling to fourth last year as a result of marginal declines across four of the five indicators used to compile the Index, while other parts of the UK made improvements.
Five areas of female economic empowerment are assessed by the Index: gender pay gap, female full-time employment, female unemployment, female labour force participation and the gap between this and male labour force participation.
This year’s Index, which includes 2019 data, reveals improvements across the board in Scotland, notably in female employment and a reduction of the gender pay gap.
However, the pandemic is expected to disproportionately impact women, setting back progress for women in work to 2017 levels. Even if job market growth returned to pre-pandemic rates by 2022, PwC estimates that progress would still be four years behind where it would have been by 2030. To reverse this damage, progress will need to proceed at twice the pre-pandemic rate.
In the UK, female-dominated industries, such as accommodation and food services, the arts, entertainment and recreation, have been hit the hardest by Covid-19 and have the highest share of furloughed jobs. Women have also been taking on a significantly larger proportion of unpaid childcare than men. The longer this higher burden on women lasts, the more women are likely to leave (or reduce time spent in) the labour market permanently.
Claire Reid, Regional Leader for PwC Scotland, said:
“It’s really encouraging for women across Scotland to see that improvements are being made to their working environments – however with levelling-up likely to add £3.8bn to Scotand’s GVA, industry and government must work together to prioritise and further empower women in our nation’s workforce.”
“However, the disproportionate effect that Covid-19 has had on women is concerning. We need to remain vigilant and ensure we stay on course to reach the goals we set out by 2030. This means focus on skills development and training in those is paramount, especially in underrepresented sectors such as technology. Flexible working and supporting women to be better able to achieve equal goals is vital for businesses.”
Laura Hinton, Chief People Officer at PwC, added:
“Based on our findings, if we don’t have policies in place to directly address the issues of burden of care, job changes post-pandemic and the number of women in growing sectors of the economy, women will return to fewer hours, lower-skilled, and lower paid jobs.
“There is absolutely no time to lose in addressing the very real impact of the pandemic on women. Governments, policymakers and businesses all have a responsibility to work together to empower women and create opportunities for meaningful participation in the workforce.”