Scotland has jumped from fourth to second place in the latest PwC Women in Work Index. However, the research found that if Scotland could match the South-west of England, there would be a 2.7 per cent boost to the nation’s gross value added (GVA) – equivalent to £3.8bn or 75,000 new full- and part-time jobs.
It comes after Scotland topped the index in 2017 before falling to fourth last year as a result of marginal declines across four of the five indicators used, while other parts of the UK made improvements.
The index looks at the gender pay gap, female full-time employment, female unemployment, female labour force participation and the gap between this and the male equivalent.
This year’s index, which includes 2019 data, reveals improvements across the board in Scotland, notably in female employment and lowering the gender pay gap.
However, PwC echoed those who have found that the pandemic is expected to have a disproportionately negative effect on women, setting back their progress in work to 2017 levels. “Even if job market growth returned to pre-pandemic rates by 2022, PwC estimates that progress would still be four years behind where it would have been by 2030. To reverse this damage, progress will need to proceed at twice the pre-pandemic rate,” the accountancy giant said.
It also said that the longer the higher burden on women lasts, the more they are likely to leave (or reduce time spent in) the labour market permanently.
Claire Reid, regional leader for PwC Scotland, welcomed women across Scotland seeing improvements in their working environments, but with the benefits levelling up could bring to Scotland, industry and government “must work together to prioritise and further empower women in our nation’s workforce”.
She added that the disproportionate effect that Covid-19 has had on women is worrying. “We need to remain vigilant and ensure we stay on course to reach the goals we set out by 2030. This means focus on skills development and training in that is paramount, especially in under-represented sectors such as technology. Flexible working and supporting women to be better able to achieve equal goals is vital for businesses.”
Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, said: “Based on our findings, if we don't have policies in place to directly address the issues of burden of care, job changes post-pandemic and the number of women in growing sectors of the economy, women will return to fewer hours, lower-skilled, and lower-paid jobs.
“There is absolutely no time to lose in addressing the very real impact of the pandemic on women. Governments, policymakers and businesses all have a responsibility to work together to empower women and create opportunities for meaningful participation in the workforce.”
The report from PwC comes after Women's Enterprise Scotland launched its 2021 Manifesto for Change, focusing on the importance of developing and supporting women’s enterprise as part of Scotland’s future economic prosperity.