The details of Labour's new policy may need hashing out—but the moral imperative for them is clearby Stephanie Boland / September 27, 2018 / Leave a comment
Amid the discussion of green jobs and tackling prejudice—of general elections and “all options being on the table”—there was one policy in Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at Labour Party Conference which will speak across the party’s base: extending free childcare.
Under the proposals, 30 hours of free childcare would be offered for all two, three and four-year-olds.
As economist Duncan Weldon points out on Twitter, there is much to be hashed out regarding the policy—not least how an already-stretched sector can bring down costs without affecting wages, or compromising on the quality of care. (Quebec’s system, in which childcare is universal but not uniform, is one potential model to explore.)
This year was the first that companies with 250 employees or more were required to report on women and men’s respective salaries.
Combined with the campaigning of BBC women—particularly the resignation of former China editor Carrie Gracie, who stepped down from her post citing pay inequality with her male colleagues—the concept of a gender pay gap, and what we might do to diminish it, has been the subject of increased scrutiny.
As ever, the usual bores have come out of the woodwork to suggest that if women suffer a gender pay gap, it’s most likely their fault. After all—they wag their wise fingers—isn’t the main factor here that women take time out of work to have children? And don’t those women—they say, arching their collective brows—choose to do that, of their very own volition?
As is so often the case with such infuriating finger-wagging types, they almost have a point. While the maternity penalty is not the exclusive cause of the gender pay gap, it’s certainly true that in families with a mother and a father, it’s the former who is more likely to take time out of work to look after her family, and subsequently more likely to work part-time afterwards—resulting in her taking a pay cut, while her partner may well enjoy a paternity “bonus” (the IPPR suggests that men with children earn around a fifth more than their childless counterparts).
Inevitably, this cut bites hardest on low-income women—who will also find it more difficult to buy their way out of caring responsibilities in order to return to work. One TUC report found that in London, the cost of childcare has…