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Equality in danger under pro-family policies

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Money, money, money – is it still a rich man’s world? is the apt title of a new report by the Fawcett Society which looks at the impact of family-friendly policies on the plight of women in the workplace.

Maternity leave and parental rights have been boosted under Labour, recent proposals include:

  • extensions to maternity pay from six to nine months by April 2007 with the goal of a year’s paid leave by the end of the next parliament

  • transferable leave between mothers and fathers

  • extension to the right for parents to request flexible working from the 3.7 million with children under six to a further 1.8 million who currently look after sick or disabled relatives

But say the society, women’s financial position is getting worse not better. According to the report:

  • Compared to men working full-time, women working full time earn nearly 20% less per hour and women working part-time earn nearly 40% less.

  • Women’s employment is concentrated in the four Cs – caring, cleaning, catering and cash registers. These are low-paid and undervalued because they have traditionally been done on an unpaid basis and the skills are seen as natural rather than acquired.

  • Women still carry out most of the unpaid work in the home – true even when both partners work full-time. This limits women’s ability to compete with men in the job market.

  • Just 13% of today’s women pensioners are entitled to the full basic state pension, compared to 92% of men.

Director of the Fawcett Society Dr Katherine Rake said: “We recognise that the current Government has done much to improve the financial position of many women. But women’s income is still just over half that of men.

“In the run-up to this election, in which women’s votes are going to be so important, we want all parties to take bold action and adopt gender equality as an explicit target.”

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