Chancellor's statement - need to avoid repeating mistakes of the past

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Responding to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak's summer statement, Sophie Walker, Chief Executive of  Young Women's Trust said:

"Young women have borne the economic and social brunt of the coronavirus crisis, from job losses, increased childcare responsibilities, untold hours of unpaid work and an increase in domestic violence. 

While the Chancellor is absolutely right to focus on the need to support young people now, this looks like a very traditional response to a pandemic that has stretched traditional responses to breaking point. 

A stamp duty giveaway for those who can afford to buy a home has been prioritised over ensuring those on universal credit aren't plunged into further hardship by the housing benefit freeze, long waits to receive payments and a regime which remains punitive rather than supportive. Additional work coaches in job centres ignores the barrier to work that is lack of access to childcare - Europe's most expensive with more corona-hit centres closing every week in a sector continually outside this government's priorities. Support for pubs and restaurants ignores the needs of sectors that employ many young women, such as the beauty industry, still shut down and languishing.

The Government's new kickstart scheme to create temporary minimum wage jobs may provide short-term relief but unless these jobs lead to permanent employment, they will do little to raise young women's prospects or lift them out of poverty, especially as this plan links employment to a lower minimum wage. There is also little here to suggest equal investment across sectors that have until now been uneven, with young women paid on average a pound an hour less in the apprenticeships they do and locked out of better paid sectors such as construction and engineering. 

If young women are to be able to access the jobs offered under this scheme, they need to be able to balance work against the caring responsibilities that fall disproportionately to them; they need to be able to work flexibly and they need to know that they are stepping into workplaces that respect and welcome their talents and creativity.

Coronavirus has entrenched sex inequalities. It has also revealed the extent to which society depends upon jobs that are continually underpaid and undervalued. A forward-thinking and effective job creation scheme needs to build on what we have learned these last six months rather than repeating mistakes of the past."