West Midlands jobs market failing women

By agency reporter
July 9, 2018

New data published by the Fawcett Society, Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC), and West Midlands Women’s Voice reveals that in the West Midlands, women are less likely to be employed than men, with 60.8 per cent of women and 73.2 per cent of men in work. This ‘employment gap’ has widened significantly since 2010 – from 10.6 per cent to 12.4 per cent, in stark contrast to the rest of the UK as whole, where it is closing. The gap is greater for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women.

This report represents a first look at data on key public services in the West Midlands, which are part of the devolution policy debate. It has been issued to coincide with the launch of a project called Making Devolution Work for Women.  This project will bring together the ideas and voices of women in the West Midlands and make recommendations for change over the coming year.

The research finds that there are still “boy jobs” and “girl jobs” in West Midlands apprenticeships – an area where the new Mayor, Andy Street, has a key role. These figures, released in response to a parliamentary question, show that women make up just one per cent of construction apprentices, an industry the West Midlands Combined Authority has flagged as having a skills shortage. The Mayor plans to make the West Midlands a hub for innovation and new tech – but just eight per cent of engineering and 22 per cent of ICT apprentices are women.

In social care, a sector worth £4.4 billion to the wider West Midlands region’s economy, new figures find that 83 per cent of the 74,200 workers are women – and that shockingly 23 per cent of workers are on zero-hours contracts with no guarantee of work.

There is better news for childcare, where new data from the Family and Childcare Trust finds that West Midlands parents pay £98.04 per week for 25 hours’ nursery care for a child aged over 2 – £14 less than the national average. But that still means that a single parent paying for full-time childcare could struggle to make work pay under Universal Credit.

These findings show that unless policy-makers collect data on gender they will struggle to tackle gender inequality and close these gaps. The issue is compounded by the fact that women remain under-represented in public life. At the top table of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), just one of the 30 voting representatives is a woman. If we include chief executives, who are in the discussion but not formal voting members, just 21 per cent of people around the table are women.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said: “The growing employment gap shows that women in the West Midlands are being left behind the rest of the UK. The new devolution deals are an opportunity to build a West Midlands economy which works for everyone – but unless the Mayor and Combined Authority makes it work for women, they will be missing half the story.”

“To do that, we need to collect the data and understand where inequality lies. That’s why we are calling for the Mayor to commit to publishing the impact decisions have on women and people from minority groups – and to listening to their voices when policies are decided.”

Brian Carr, BVSC Chief Executive, said: “This research makes clear that a lack of gender statistics at the Combined Authority level risks perpetuating inequality, but also that the Mayor and his team have a great opportunity to make changes which could have far-reaching benefits for women across the West Midlands region. We’re hopeful that the insights emerging from this work will help us all to make devolution work for everyone.”

Sharonjit Clare from West Midlands Women’s Voice added: “West Midlands Women’s Voice welcomes this challenge, from such a credible organisation as Fawcett Society, within the region and sees it as a natural extension of the work that was commissioned by West Midlands Combined Authority’s Leadership Commission. We have mobilised our diverse membership to participate and encourage other underrepresented groups to engage”

Other key findings of the research so far include:

Employment and skills

  • There are 108,000 fewer women than men employed across the West Midlands Combined Authority area – more than live in the whole of Sandwell
  • The West Midlands has a gender pay gap of 16 per cent overall, and 13.9 per cent for full-time workers. That is less than the national average at 17.4 per cent and 14.1 per centrespectively
  • There are 110,200 fewer women working in the 10 best-paid occupational groups, like management, STEM, and business – and 13,400 more women working in the 10 lowest paid occupational groups, like sales and caring

Childcare and Social Care

  • Women are 28 per cent more likely to provide unpaid care for another adult than men, and 38 per cent more likely to provide over 20 hours per week of care
  • Only 23 per cent of councils across the wider West Midlands region have enough childcare available for parents in full-time work, compared with 52 per cent across England

Transport

  • Sustrans figures show that women make up just 26 per cent of cyclists in Birmingham
  • There is a lack of gender statistics at the Combined Authority level – but nationwide women are much more likely to travel by bus, and less likely to use rail or drive

* Read Making Devolution Work for Women: West Midlands Data report here

* Fawcett Society https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/

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