Young women’s confidence in politicians has collapsed

3 September 2019

More than two thirds of young women say their confidence in politicians has plummeted, with many reporting they feel ignored as they struggle to make ends meet, according to new findings from Young Women’s Trust published on the day MPs return to Parliament.

The charity, which supports young women on low or no pay, surveyed 2,000 women aged 18 to 30 through Populus Data Solutions and found that 69 per cent had less confidence in their elected representatives than this time last year.

That number rose to 72% among young women aged 18 to 24 years old, while 70% of young women with a disability or long-term health condition said they felt they were not listened to by those in power.

Young Women’s Trust Chief Executive Sophie Walker said:

“Our research shows that young women feel ignored by politicians, as they battle low pay, in-work poverty and barriers to work. Amid confusion over Brexit and concerns about Britain’s economic future, politicians worried about the UK’s skills gap and productivity are failing to see that the answer is right in front of them.

“More than one million young women in England and Wales are out of work or trapped in a low paid job. More than one million have been paid less than a male colleague who has done the same or similar work. More than 800,000 have been sexually harassed at work and not reported it. And 1 in 4 young mothers have experienced discrimination when their employer found they were pregnant.

“Now is the time for government to invest equally in training and skills for young women as young men. Instead of barring them from workplaces because of their sex and their caring responsibilities, or funnelling them into low paid jobs that society values less, let’s unlock young women’s talents to the benefit of businesses and our economy.

“We are calling for equally available and funded vocational training for young women as well as specific support for young mothers and carers to be able to work or study.

Investment in the workforce of the future means a rise in the apprentice minimum wage and paying equally whether in care or construction. It means extending the National Living Wage to under 25s, which would particularly help young women experiencing pay discrimination. And it means the government must crack down on pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment at work; and fix Universal Credit so that young women – who are more reliant on welfare support than young men – receive adequate, timely support.”

Tuesday’s Young Women’s Trust survey also showed that among young people there is strong support for introducing bursaries to support people to undertake apprenticeships (80%), maintaining free trade with Europe (78%), increasing rights for self-employed workers (77%) and re-introducing maintenance grants for university students (77%).

“MPs urgently need to reconnect with young women. We want to help and to ensure young women’s voices are heard throughout Brexit negotiations and in future policy-making. To that end we have created event guides to help politicians hold inclusive events to hear from young women in their constituencies. We look forward to working with all politicians who want to build a fairer future for young women,” Walker concluded.

Note to editors

1) Young Women’s Trust supports and represents women aged 18 to 30 in England and Wales trapped by low or no pay and facing a life of poverty. The charity provides services and runs campaigns to make sure that the talents of young women don’t go to waste.

2) All figures unless otherwise stated are based on findings from a survey carried out for Young Women’s Trust by Populus Data Solutions. A representative sample of 4,025 18 to 30 year olds in England and Wales, with panel services provided by Populus Live, were surveyed between 25 June and 11 July 2019. The survey shows that:

a) 69% of young women said that their confidence in politicians had got worse over the last 12 months, 21% that it had stayed the same and 2% that it had got better.

b) 60% of young women feel ignored by politicians, rising to 70% among young women with long-term mental and physical health conditions.

c) 72% of young women aged between 18 and 24 said they had less confidence in politicians than this time last year.

3) Young Women’s Trust’s It’s (Still) a Rich Man’s World report in 2018 showed that one in five young women had been offered less than the minimum wage they were entitled; had been paid less than male colleagues who did similar work; were reliant on their parents to help them make money last until the end of the month. 44% of young women said they were worried about their mental health and over half of those surveyed said they felt worried for the future.

4) The same report found that more than 800,000 young women have been sexually harassed at work and have not reported it because they are too worried to do so in case they lost their job or suffered reduced working hours.