Men and women are equals, but not in Scotland – leader comment

As the coronavirus outbreak shines a light in inequality between men and women, we must strive to ensure fairness for all in the post-Covid ‘new normal’.

Scotland has made considerable progress in the creation of a more equal society. In just a few decades, attitudes have changed radically and the days when sexism, racism and other forms of prejudice were casually accepted as a normal part of life are long gone. However, it is also clear that we still have a problem and one given considerable amounts of extra oxygen by social media. But inequality is not just about vile abuse by Twitter trolls, there are also deeper, more structural problems.

While women now have the same rights as men in the workplace, they continue to face a dramatic pay gap. And at home, they have continued to be the ones who tend to do most of the housework and provide the majority of the childcare.

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Now, according to a new study, the inequalities faced by young women in particular have been made worse by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Young Women’s Trust found that half of women aged 18 to 30 they surveyed had been financially affected by the crisis with one in five losing their job.

Another study found women were doing an hour and seven minutes a day more unpaid labour, such as caring for children or housework, than men during the lockdown.

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With many people now working from home, such disparities should be becoming increasingly obvious, even glaring. There has been much talk about learning lessons about what is truly important in life as a result of the lockdown. And we should not ignore the spotlight it is currently shining on the continued inequalities that exist between men and women.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, equality is “about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents”. No one can disagree that this ideal should be a primary goal for any decent society.

The Scottish Health Survey found that 27 per cent of women aged 16 to 24 exhibited signs of a possible psychiatric disorder – the highest of any age-group – compared to 20 per cent of their male peers.

It is surely not a huge leap to suggest that one reason for this could be that, as women reach adulthood, they begin to realise that life will not treat them as equals purely on account of their gender. In the discussions around the ‘new normal’ after Covid, how to achieve greater equality must be to the fore.

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