Young women still waiting for answers amidst Brexit distraction

Thursday 19 September 2019

Mark GaleThe young women we work with, tired of being ignored, are giving up hope in the ability of politics to change things for the better. Two thirds of them tell us their faith in politicians has disintegrated in the last year. Jo Swinson used part of her speech to the Liberal Democrat conference to talk about how young people are being cut out of the debate on issues affecting their future.

This acknowledgement that their voices need to be heard will be some comfort to young women. But with the headlines still focussing on the process of Brexit, they are left searching for solutions to the challenges they face now and will still face whatever shape Brexit takes. Swinson’s speech also failed to show how embedding Britain at the heart of the European Union will, in itself, reverse the devastating impact a decade of austerity has had on young women.

Broader discussions at the conference started to hint at some possible answers, however. There were various policy motions that were impressive in their scope and vision for gender equality, a fair economy and education for all. Yet the scale of ambition was not matched by detail, meaning, it was hard to discern how these policies will help those most in need. We work with women who are amongst the million struggling on low or no pay, plunged into financial difficulties and mental ill-health by the discrimination they face on a daily basis.

Young women tell us that they want to know how a future Government will fix Universal Credit, so it gives them timely support and helps them into quality jobs and training. They want to know what will be done to create a childcare system that supports those most in need and helps young women access education and training themselves. They want to know when a Government will stop focussing so much investment on jobs for the boys and start investing jobs in retail, childcare and social care on which many young women rely – and are relied upon by government to do. Young women are more likely to be in insecure work which pays little and has little potential for development, so they want to know if the parties will commit to reward them for the work they do by extending the National Living Wage to all those aged 21 and over.

Over the rest of the conference season we will be looking at what other parties are saying on these questions. Political parties of all colours need to be doing more to give young women the answers they need.