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Gender and economic recovery in Scotland

The economic downturn precipitated by Covid-19 is different from that caused by previous shocks. It is likely to have a particularly harsh impact on hospitality, retail, and care sectors that are female-dominated and dominated by Black and minority ethnic workers. At the same time, services that enable women, and especially disabled women’s, labour market participation, including nurseries, schools, and social care, will need to operate differently to avoid exacerbating the pandemic.

The UK policy response to the 2008 financial crash was austerity. This turned a recession that began with contraction in male-dominated sectors like construction into a shredding of the social safety net. Of the cumulative social security cuts driven by austerity between 2010 and 2022, 59% will have come from women’s purses. Women bear around 61% of the total annual ‘fiscal consolidation’ burden as a result of UK tax and benefit changes, with Black and minority ethnic women hit the hardest.

Austerity is the backdrop to the Covid-19 recession. Its depletion of public services go some way to explaining the sluggish response of the UK to managing the pandemic itself, as well as the lack of capacity within care infrastructure.

The features of the Covid-19 economic crisis mean that the traditional approach to stimulus will work even less well than usual. We do not need to spend on a narrowly defined set of infrastructure projects that will create ‘jobs for the boys’. We need to invest money in creating demand for goods and services by spending on health, childcare, and social care services.

If Scotland’s traditional ways of thinking about the economy won’t work then we need to adopt some new approaches. The following principles develop Scotland’s existing commitment to inclusive growth. They are a set of ideas, challenges, and calls that are rooted in evidence. They describe features of an economy that works for women as well as men. They put care and solidarity at its heart. They will create better jobs, better decision-making, and a more adequate standard of living for us all…

ENGENDER, & Close the Gap. (2020). Gender and Economic Recovery.

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