Scottish Labour leadership contest focuses on gender equality

Scottish Labour leader candidate Richard Leonard. Picture: Michael Gillen
Scottish Labour leader candidate Richard Leonard. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Scottish Labour’s leadership hopefuls have focused on gender equality as the contest to succeed Kezia Dugdale continues.

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Anas Sarwar has promised to help women who have been adversely affected by state pension age increases.

He said new powers over social security coming to Holyrood could be used to mitigate changes, pledging to lodge amendments to the Social Security Bill to allow a Scottish Pension Credit to be introduced.

Plans to increase the state pension age for women from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020 were initially set out in 1995.

But the coalition government decided to speed up the process in 2011, resulting in the state pension age for women due to increase to 65 in November 2018 and to 66 by October 2020.

Campaigners argue women affected have had to rethink their retirement plans at relatively short notice.

“Thousands of women born in the 1950s have been left facing real financial difficulty because of the lack of notice given by the cruel Tory government about changes to the state pension,” Mr Sarwar said.

“We need urgent action to end the hardship faced by women who have worked all their lives and find that they cannot retire as planned.”

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Meanwhile his rival Richard Leonard has promised to address the gender gap in subject choices at school and beyond by creating a “gender equality training standard” for current and new teachers to help eliminate gender bias in classrooms.

He has also proposed the “targeted use of gender quotas in modern apprenticeships where there is a high level of occupational segregation such as social care and construction”.

“The trade union movement has a history of elevating the voice of women workers, but women remain under-represented and underpaid,” he said.

“Occupational gender segregation is at the heart of gender inequality.

“High levels of segregation are a significant factor in the discrepancy between the wages of women and men, the majority of the care, cleaning or administration workforce are women and they are undervalued and underpaid. This must change.”

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