September 03, 2019
Politicians return to work today. But young Women have little confidence that MPs will be working for them. As parties fight over Brexit, many young women are battling low pay, in-work poverty and barriers to work – with little hope of change.
Young Women Have Given Up On Our Politics – And Thats Bad For All Of Us
Research by Young Women’s Trust reveals two-thirds of women aged 18 to 30 say their confidence in their elected representatives has plummeted over the last year. The figure is 70% among young women with a disability and 72% among women aged 18 to 24. Young women feel ignored and let down as they face workplace discrimination, welfare systems that no longer provide adequate support and the demands of unpaid and unvalued care work that traps them in poverty.
Lots of people say they’re sick of our MPs right now. Politicians rarely poll well among the public – regularly duking it out with advertising executives in the ranks of Britain’s least-trusted profession. But the pattern of distrust revealed by our research is deeply worrying. The huge gap between politicians and young women is bad for all of us.The huge gap between politicians and young women is bad for all of us.Over the last 12 months the infighting over Brexit has stalled domestic legislation and distracted our MPs from considering measures to support half the country: women. This support is urgently needed. Ten years of austerity has hit women disproportionately because they are more likely to use public services, more likely to work in the public sector and more likely to do more unpaid work when services are cut.
Young women are often at the sharp end of that discrimination: pushed by gender stereotypes into the jobs that society values and pays least, frequently denied equal pay and a living wage, shut out from state childcare provision offered to working families. They are more likely than young men to be offered a zero-hours contract, more likely to be paid less than the minimum wage, and more likely to say work is hurting their mental health.
More than one million young women in England and Wales are out of work or trapped in a low paid job. More than one million have been paid less than a male colleague who has done the same or similar work. More than 800,000 have been sexually harassed at work and not reported it. And one in four young mothers have experienced discrimination when their employer found they were pregnant.
Is it any surprise that young women have lost faith in politicians – who, when we look at the population of the House of Commons, are overwhelmingly male, white and aged between 50 and 59?MPs would do well to find some of the answers by listening to young women’s voicesToo many MPs see young women as insignificant electoral targets. Too many MPs, in a Parliament where young women rarely make it as representatives, don’t even realise their lack of perspective in policy-making. As concerns about Britain’s economic future rise, politicians worried about the UK’s skills gap and productivity are failing to see that young women are the answer they seek. Young women are ready to be the talented, skilled workforce we need. They want to do equal work of equal value.
Today’s research is a wake-up call for politicians. Facing questions about the effectiveness of our voting system and our democracy; an uncertain economic outlook and the strain on overwhelmed public services, MPs would do well to find some of the answers by listening to young women’s voices. By reconnecting with young women and ensuring young women’s voices are heard throughout Brexit negotiations and future policy-making, our politicians can create systems that work for everyone.
Let’s invest equally in training and skills for young women as for young men. Instead of barring them from workplaces and opportunities because of their sex, let’s unlock young women’s talents to the benefit of businesses, our economy, and our deeply divided society. We must halt insidious workplace discrimination and harassment. We must value the skills that carers provide. We must fix Universal Credit so that young women, who are more reliant on welfare payments than young men, receive adequate, timely support. Economic equality for women is vital for a functioning and fair society. And the first step is economic equality for young women.
Sophie Walker is chief executive of the Young Women’s TrustRelated... Given Greta Thunberg's Bullying, Is It Any Wonder So Few Women Share That They're Autistic? Brexiters Love To Invoke Churchill – But He Would Tell The Truth About No Deal We Must Detoxify Political Debate. The Future Of Our Democracy Depends On It.
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