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Challenge Poverty Week: Women's employment support

This week is challenge poverty week, so it’s a great chance to look at a whole host of issues which affect women. One huge factor which pushes and keeps women in poverty is access to jobs, and the employment services which support women into work.

Women’s participation in the labour market is undermined by systemic barriers including childcare, unpaid care, discrimination in the workplace, occupational segregation, lack of flexible working, lack of support returning to work after extended leave to care, and violence against women. This means employment support much be tailored to different groups of women including disabled women, refugee women, older women, lone parents, unpaid carers, and survivors of violence against women to recognise the barriers to employment that they face.

The One Step Closer pilot project working with refugee and asylum seeking women, and Working for Families, a programme for lone parents, are both great examples of the type of tailored employability programmes we are calling for, but much more support is needed. Just this summer, the much-loved employment support programme Women Onto Work in Edinburgh was forced to close due to lack of funds.

In our Gender Matters Manifesto which was launched earlier this month, we are calling for a £50m employment support and enterprise fund to be established during the next parliament to enable pilot projects to be established for women’s employment support. It is also vital that these employability programmes are linked to wider objectives around tackling occupational segregation and women’s underemployment, for example pushing for the living wage and universal, flexible childcare. Employability services should not exist to channel women in low-paid, female-dominated sectors, but instead support women to find meaningful and fair work.

The Scottish Government will soon have new powers over employment support, so this is a key opportunity to make our voices heard. Engender is hosting a focus group next week for women who have experience of employability services. This will be fed back to the Scottish Government to ensure that the new powers are used to help provide tailored support for women in Scotland. Book your place here.

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