Childcare costs are both a democratic and an economic issue – Scotsman comment

Women have no place in politics. They should really just stay at home and look after the children.

Greater provision of childcare could help the economy (Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)
Greater provision of childcare could help the economy (Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

Thankfully, such attitudes are now reduced to the outrageous remnants of our sexist past and anyone who expresses them today will be mocked, pilloried and ignored.

We do so only in order to point out the difference between changing attitudes and changing the way the world actually works. It’s not good enough to merely accept women have a right to be involved in politics if other barriers mean the same-old male domination persists.

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For the record, The Scotsman has a long tradition of supporting women’s rights, dating back at least as far as our support for the Edinburgh Seven, who, in 1869, became the first women to matriculate at a UK university.

According to Alison Evison, president of council body Cosla, women are now standing down as councillors because they “literally cannot afford” childcare costs on their salaries.

Cosla is currently campaigning for councillors to be paid at least the real living wage of £9.90 an hour. Evison also said the rules for how councils operate "were set by a particular demographic to suit their particular needs”, and the length and timing of council meetings could be adjusted to make things less difficult for those with other responsibilities.

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Female councillors 'literally cannot afford' childcare due to poor pay, says Cos...

“We can't let people be put off standing because the systems in place now aren't right for the life I lead and my caring responsibilities and everything else… It's really crucial if local democracy is going to be meaningful across Scotland,” she said.

But this is a problem not just for democracy but society at large. Low wages and high child care costs are almost certainly holding back Scotland’s economy by preventing people from taking work they could otherwise do.

The way childcare is provided is one issue. In some European countries, it is regarded as good practice for employers to offer creche facilities, enabling mums and dads to be close to their children. This is a cost to the employer, but they benefit by becoming a more attractive place to work and also from greater staff loyalty, commitment and, importantly, productivity.

So perhaps government should consider steps to further encourage this practice in Scotland, as a way to improve the economy as well as diversity in democracy.

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