On the 14th December, we were delighted to welcome Dr Alison Parken and Dr Paul Sissons to our Spotlight Research Hub at Cardiff Story Museum to discuss gender and the Welsh economy. The event offered participants a unique opportunity to consider the gender implications of the recently published report Harnessing Growth Sectors for Poverty Reduction: The Role of Poverty.

Opening the event, Chwarae Teg’s Research Partner Dr Hade Turkmen provided some highlights from the recently published Economic Action Plan, which includes a welcome focus on delivering inclusive growth. A crucial inclusion in the Action Plan from a gender perspective is a focus on supporting foundation sectors within the economy such as care and retail. The importance of these foundation sectors was a theme throughout the afternoon.

Dr Alison Parken’s contribution provided a useful insight into women’s positon in the Welsh economy, bringing together labour market figures and benchmarking from the WAVE project. She outlined that despite performing better in education, women continue to face disadvantage in the labour market. They are over-represented in part-time, insecure work, lack progression opportunities and are often under-employed. Discussing part-time work Dr Parken stated that in many cases “part-time work is not an active choice but is a career penalty.” Addressing the problem of part-time work will need to be a focus if we are to effectively address the economic inequality women face and ensure that they benefit from Wales’ economic growth.

In his presentation, Dr Sissons outlined the structural problems contributing to the growing problem of in-work poverty including precarious working conditions, low wage, no-wage cycle and job quality. These problems are common across low-pay growth sectors such as accommodation and food services, social care, wholesale and retail – sectors that have been identified for pro-active support from the Welsh Government and that tend to have large proportions of female workers.

While these sectors are associated with a higher risk of in-work poverty, Dr Sissons outlined that they also have potential to be used to improve anti-poverty strategies. As rapidly growing sectors, they are likely to experience skills shortages and retention challenges. These factors can be used to generate new employment opportunities. Dr Sissons stressed, however, that current business models based on low pay in these sectors should be reviewed immediately in order to maximise the potential of these sectors in tackling poverty.

A common theme in both contributions was the need to address structural problems in the labour market. There is also a sense that Wales has an opportunity to take a lead on tackling these issues given the appetite to develop and support policies for fair work, job quality and equality in the economy. Our guest speakers emphasised the need for interventions and policies focused on employment entry, improving programmes for career progression, and improving job quality hand in hand with businesses.

The presentations were followed by a question and answer session and a fruitful discussion on solutions.

The next meeting of Chwarae Teg’s Spotlight will be held in March 2018. To sign up to notifications about Spotlight please click HERE.