International Women's day - March 8th 2015

Women and Girls

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Though women could hold the balance of power in the upcoming general election, we are currently under-represented in both the economy and politics. I am determined to win women’s votes.  In 2010, 9.1 million women did not vote.  1.1 million fewer women than men voted.  Yet women have suffered most under this Coalition Government and the Labour Party has a proud record of developing policies that promote women’s equal place in society.

 

There are so many ways in which the Tory-led Government has failed women and their families:

  • Childcare costs have risen by 30% since 2010. There are 578 fewer Sure Start children’s centres, and 35,000 fewer childcare places.
  • Women’s real wages have fallen year on year. A third of working women in the Colne Valley earn less than the living wage.  Most workers on zero-hours contracts and working in minimum wage jobs are women.
  • Women still earn just 81p for every male pound, and yet the Tories and Lib Dems refuse to back Labour’s proposals for pay transparency across big companies.
  • Women’s unemployment is higher than at any time under the last Labour Government. Record numbers of women are working part-time, for a third less pay.  Record numbers of women are registering as self-employed with average full-time earnings less than the minimum wage.
  • Young women are doing better at school and going to university in greater numbers than ever before, yet 400,000 young women are not in education, work or training.
  • The bedroom tax is hitting 400,000 women, including women whose houses have been secured against former perpetrators of domestic violence.
  • Despite a rise in recorded rapes and reported incidents of domestic violence, since 2010 both prosecutions and convictions for domestic violence and for rape have fallen.

 

What will Labour do to make a better future for women?

 

We’ll deliver on the promise of equality for women

 

  • Labour will act to deliver equal pay for women. Under a Labour Government, companies with more than 250 workers will have to publish their hourly pay gap in their annual report because shining a light on the problem will encourage us all to tackle it.

 

We’ll support women to better balance work and caring

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  • 25 hours free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds will support more mums who want to go back to work but can’t afford it – and that’s on top of Tax-Free Childcare.
  • We will guarantee access to wraparound childcare like Breakfast and Afterschool clubs from 8am-6pm through your Primary School to help parents juggle work and family life.
  • The majority of Britain’s six million unpaid carers are women. Every elderly person in need of social care would be assigned a single point of contact to co-ordinate information on GP visits, physiotherapy and home adaptations under a Labour government. 

We’ll support women and their families make work pay

  • An £8 minimum wage under Labour will benefit women most. That’s 3.9 million low paid women who will get a pay rise.
  • A third of working women in the Colne Valley are now earning less than the living wage. We’ll help women and their families make work pay. In our first year in office Labour will give every employer back  a third of the cost of raising their staff’s pay to the living wage.
  • Most zero-hours contract jobs are done by women, placing huge strain on family budgets and care arrangements. We’ll ban exploitative zero-hour contracts.
  • We will freeze energy bills until 2017 while we reform the market to help all families struggling with energy bills that have risen by £300 since the election.

 

We’ll support women to get into work and rise to the top

  • Half a million young women are not working or in education or training. We’ll support thousands of young women back to work, with a real paid job or training for all those under 25 out of work for more than a year.
  • There are more women unemployed now than at any time under Labour. A Labour Government will extend the compulsory jobs guarantee to over 25s with a real paid job for women who’ve been out of work for more than two years.
  • We will help small business women by cutting business rates in 2015 and freezing them in 2016 for small businesses rather than going ahead with the Government’s corporation tax cut for the largest firms.

Labour will stand up for the most vulnerable

  • We will ensure energy companies give pensioners over 75 the lowest tariff on offer, so that older people aren’t overpaying for their gas and electricity because they can’t find the cheapest deals.
  • Most of those hit by the bedroom tax are women, some victims of domestic violence whose homes have been specially adapted for security. We’ll scrap this harsh tax which according to the government hits 400,000 women.

Violence against women and girls is a national scandal and Labour will tackle it

 

  • We’ll improve police response to violence against women with a new national Commissioner for domestic and sexual violence to set national standards for response and training.
  • Girls and boys are growing up exposed to explicit material and pornography online. We’ll ensure sex and relationship education is taught in all schools, and that it teaches not just about sexual health but also about consent, online safety and respect in relationships.

HOW LABOUR SUPPORTED WOMEN AND FAMILIES IN GOVERNMENT

Women and work

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  • In 1999 Labour introduced the National Minimum Wage. Every year since then up to a million low paid workers, two thirds of whom are women, have benefitted.
  • We opened 3,500 Sure Start Children’s Centres, providing support for parents and young children in every community.
  • To support new parents to balance work and family life, we increased paid maternity leave to nine months and extended total maternity leave to a full year. On top of this we introduced two weeks paid paternity leave.
  • We introduced Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit in 2003 to help low income working households, with extra support for the youngest children.
  • We legislated against maternity and sex discrimination in the workplace and put in place powers to require large firms (over 250 employees) to be transparent about the gender pay differences of their employees.
  • The last Labour Government closed the gender pay gap by a third.
  • Labour supported more young women to achieve higher academic success with over half of young women attending university (surpassing boys) for the first time in history.

Violence against Women and Girls

  • Under Labour, convictions for rape increased by 45% and there was a 58% decline in cases of domestic violence.
  • Through the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004, Labour improved how the police, prosecutors and courts handle domestic violence cases.
  • We introduced laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, extending and strengthening sex discrimination rules.
  • In Opposition we have championed the new criminal offence of stalking and pushed the Government to introduce Clare’s law.  This enables women to find out from police if their partner has a history of domestic violence.  It has been brought in in England and Wales.

 

As a woman, I am incredibly proud of Labour’s record in government in promoting the rights of women and addressing their needs.  I know that we will continue to do so.

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