While Scotland continues to outperform the rest of the UK on women’s employment, we know there is more to do. That’s why, in government, we’re doing everything within our current powers to help women enter and progress in the labour market.
Although not exclusively a woman’s issue, we are increasing childcare to improve outcomes for children, and support more women back into work. Free childcare has already been increased to 16 hours a week for all 3 and 4 year olds – up from 12.5 hours in 2007 – and extended to 2 year olds from low income households. By the end of this parliament, we’ll hit 30 hours a week, increasing spending to almost £1 billion and saving families over £4,500 per child per year. The 2018-19 Draft Budget allocates almost a quarter of a billion of new investment in the workforce and infrastructure necessary for this expansion. Read more about the expansion of childcare here.
Women continue to form the majority of college students in Scotland and between 2006-07 and 2015-16 the proportion of female students enrolled in recognised qualifications increased by almost a fifth. This year the colleges budget has increased and we will continue to maintain at least 116,000 full-time equivalent Scottish Government-funded college places. We’ve also expanded the Education Maintenance Allowance in Scotland – now scrapped south of the border – to support even more school pupils and college students from low income families.
We are also helping experienced women to return to their previous careers after a break by investing £185,000 in six Returners projects.
To promote equality in the workplace we have established a £500,000 fund. The Workplace Equality Fund will support efforts to reduce employment inequalities, discrimination and barriers for minority ethnic people, women, disabled people and older workers.
We are tackling gender inequality in business too. In October 2017 the First Minister announced £230,000 of funding for projects to tackle he gender gap and help break down some of the barriers which can prevent women achieving equality in business.
We are also encouraging organisations to sign up to the Business Pledge, including the commitment to workforce diversity, and to join the Partnership for Change campaign to set a voluntary commitment for gender balance in their boardrooms of 50:50 by 2020.
And we’re working to support women to progress in the workforce too. To increase the number of women in leadership roles across the wider public sector, we have passed the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill. The new law – the first of its kind in the UK – will require public bodies to work towards gender balance on their board.