From Getting by to Getting On: Woman's employment and local regeneration programmes | Employment | Poverty

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Why does regeneration fail the poorest women, and what can be done to help? The issues are complex, but the solutions are achievable. This report demonstrates that women's employment needs have been left out of regeneration planning. As long as employment plans neglect the complex needs of women in poor communities, local economic underperformance will continue. Sustained, integrated support services are needed at neighbourhood level, with stronger links between regeneration policy, welfare policy and labour market strategies. Most importantly, workers and policy makers should listen more carefully to the needs of women in low paid employment or disengaged from the labour market.
  Karen Escott, Centre for Education Research and Social Inclusion, Sheffield Hallam University, and Oxfam RENEW Northwest Intelligence Report November 2007 From getting by to getting on Women’s employment and local regeneration programmes In partnership with  2 RENEW Northwest Intelligence Report 3 From getting by to getting on: Women’s employment and local regeneration programmes Summary  What is happening to the poorest women in the labour market, and what can be done to help? This question is key to understanding why policies and projects for poor communities over the last three decades have not necessarily improved the economic wellbeing of many women, and economic growth in the Northwest has not benefited as it could from their potential. The issues are complex and interlocking, but the solutions are known and achievable. Slow economic growth is a particular issue in the Northwest. There is increasing acceptance that greater economic output does not automatically benefit disadvantaged groups. The problem is not simply one of unemployment or economic activity, but also of low income. Employment does not necessarily provide an escape from poverty. This report demonstrates that regeneration plans have not always met the employment needs of the poorest women. New jobs created through regeneration programmes have not always gone to local people, and women’s economic inactivity rates in some deprived wards increased between 1991 and 2001, even during a period of considerable job growth. So what are the answers? Improved skills are not always the solution, as in deprived areas fewer women with qualifications are in paid work. Unemployed women in these communities feel their employment options are very limited.This report draws on our study focusing on women’s poverty 1  in six areas of high socio-economic disadvantage in England as part of the Gender and Employment in Local Labour  Markets  programme, and presents practical strategies for policymakers and practitioners. We also draw on two other studies in the programme, one focusing on economically inactive women 2  and the other on ethnic minority women 3 . The report also draws on Oxfam’s experience working with poor women in deprived areas.The scale of economic inactivity among women is a major challenge. Our study provided an insight into local labour markets where there has been considerable regeneration investment. We suggest practices to make it more likely that employment will reduce poverty. RENEW Northwest is publishing a series of papers based on current good practice in regeneration. They aim to provide leaders and practitioners in the Northwest with accessible, evidence based summaries of ‘what works’ in order to inform their own activities. Compiled by a respected researcher in the field, their intention is to draw on current research to challenge practice and suggest new ways to build sustainable communities in the region. Oxfam’s ReGender project Since 2002, Oxfam’s ReGender project has been working with community activists, groups, practitioners, and policymakers across the UK to improve the lives of women and men by focusing on gender issues in regeneration programmes. Starting at community level, Oxfam worked with local groups so they got involved in the regeneration of their areas. They spoke up to decision-makers to ensure action on women’s needs and priorities. ReGender now works with the voluntary and statutory sectors so regeneration practitioners can improve service delivery using a gender analysis. The project has also worked with regeneration training providers to include gender in core modules, and it advocates for gender guidelines to be used routinely for better, more effective regeneration. ‘Unemployed women in these communities feel their employment options are very limited’   4 RENEW Northwest Intelligence Report 5 From getting by to getting on: Women’s employment and local regeneration programmes In the Northwest, 69% of working age women are economically active, over half of whom work full-time. i While female full-time employment grew by 10% in the region from 1991-2002, faster than male full-time employment, it was from a low base. Most of the employment growth was in part-time work, concentrated in often poorly paid service sector jobs.Added to this regional trend, local employment growth patterns varied between communities, and even where growth exceeded the national rate, economic disadvantage remained significant. Employment rates remain particularly low in Liverpool, Manchester, Knowsley and Blackburn 4 . Disadvantaged groups whose employment rates were well below the regional average include women from black and ethnic minority communities, lone parents, disabled women and women with no qualifications. The research concludes that:  Proactive labour market policies alongside regeneration investment would help change the economic position of many deprived communities;  The complex needs of women in poor communities require sustained, integrated support services at neighbourhood level;  Stronger links could be made between regeneration, welfare and labour market policies to benefit the poorest women;  Listening to the needs of women trapped in low paid work or disengaged from the labour market would help regeneration and employment practitioners tackle the problems effectively;  Longer-term strategies to strengthen labour market demand for high quality jobs, located in deprived communities, will help improve access to employment for the most deprived women. The context The scale of women’s poverty In comparison with surrounding areas, women living in deprived areas are:  Less likely to be in full-time or part-time employment;  Less likely to be in paid work if they are lone parents living in an area where job growth is relatively weak;  More likely to work in unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, and less likely to be in professional or managerial roles;  Less likely to work either full-time or part-time if they have caring responsibilities;  More likely to be unemployed or economically inactive;  Much more likely to work closer to home, and prefer not to work outside their area;  Two thirds of those receiving Income Support;  Likely to experience high rates of limiting long-term illness and poor health.Our data highlighted women’s poverty as a serious concern in relation to the labour market. This came across strongly in interviews and focus groups: ‘Many women live on low incomes whether they are in work or not; if they are in paid work it tends to be low paid. People get by, but only just.’  ii  The impact on families has long-term and widespread results. The level of workless households in deprived neighbourhoods far exceeds district and regional averages, and in some areas accounts for almost half of all households. Economic inactivity in poor areas A key concern for regeneration practitioners is high unemployment and economic inactivity. iii Unemployed people are available for work but unable to find it, while economically inactive people are not looking for or available for work. The difference is significant for women in that if they are caring for a household, or for others, they are classified as  economically inactive and therefore neither counted as unemployed nor provided for by a range of job-finding programmes. Data from deprived communities across England demonstrates that for both men and women, economic inactivity rates increased between 1991 and 2001 despite significant regeneration activity in some of those areas 5 . Some of the poorest women left the labour market altogether to care for families, due to a combination of the loss of local jobs and increased caring responsibilities.By listening to women we found several reasons for these apparently low employment rates. Key factors included a lack of suitable and well-paid opportunities; inflexible working practices among many employers; the tax and benefits system; a lack of relevant qualifications; ‘Employment rates remain particularly low in Liverpool,  Manchester, Knowsley and Blackburn’  ‘The level of workless households in deprived neighbourhoods far exceeds district and regional averages’   6 RENEW Northwest Intelligence Report 7 From getting by to getting on: Women’s employment and local regeneration programmes a lack of recent work experience, and breaks in employment; a lack of spoken English for some ethnic minority women; and the high cost and shortage of childcare. Low incomes persist Although women are at greater risk of poverty than men, statistics based on household income mask the problem. There is no official data about how income is shared, even though it is often very unequal 6 . Nevertheless, recent data confirms that the problem of low household income is not improving. In 2005/06, some 12.7m people in the UK lived in households with less than 60% of the median income after housing costs. Between 2004/05 and 2005/06 the number of children in relative poverty rose to 3.8m (30%), as did the proportion of working-age parents in poverty (from 23% to 25%). Poverty rates for working-age adults without dependent children rose to 17.5%, the highest level since 1961 7 . Low income is not confined to those who are unemployed or economically inactive. Some 4.25m adults aged 22 to retirement were paid less than £6.50 per hour in 2006. Two thirds of these were women and half were part-time workers 8 . Women in poor communities are disproportionately concentrated in unskilled and semi-skilled  jobs, where many feel economically isolated and are vulnerable to low wages, insecure work, and occupational segregation. ‘Traditionally men would have worked full-time and women may have had a part-time job. This was the bedrock of employment, but it has gone.’  ‘There is a lot of hidden unemployment and a high proportion of low paid jobs. The industrial base has reduced and the area is more dependent on female employment, which tends to be low paid.’ Ethnic minority women The research found unemployment rates for white British women are higher than the national rate in deprived wards, but that the position of many black and ethnic minority women in these areas is much worse. Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black African women in particular who actively seek work suffer from high rates of unemployment, contrary to the myth that many do not want paid work. In the Northwest 19% of Bangladeshi women and 15% of Pakistani women are unemployed, compared with 4% of white women of working age. This has been highlighted by the Equal Opportunities Commission’s investigation into ethnic minority women in the labour market 9 . ‘If they actually listened they would find that we don’t want to be unemployed, we don’t want to sit inside. We all have brains, we all have ambitions, but after a while you go there and they look at you and it starts to make  you feel like, ‘What’s the point, I’m useless’  – that’s why a lot of people get depression who sign on.’ Some ethnic minority women feel their early negative experiences continue to hamper their progress throughout their lives. In some localities new migrants, including refugees, face high levels of deprivation, exacerbated by language barriers. Qualifications don’t guarantee work  Over one in five working age women in the Northwest have no qualifications. This reduces their job prospects. But qualifications do not guarantee employment, as fewer women with qualifications living in deprived areas are in paid work. ‘I don’t think the area is expected to be aspirational. You get everyone talking about basic skills – skills needed for low paid, low quality jobs. It’s all about getting them a job, and not about the type of job.’ Our study shows that many women want to work, but that it is not just an economic decision. Household pressures, including care responsibilities and lack of affordable services, are also important. In the Northwest almost half the women who are economically inactive are looking after their home and family, a far higher rate than for men.Flexibility is a key dimension to women’s employment. However, over two thirds of working women and four in five working men in the Northwest have no flexibility in their working arrangements 10 . ‘Women in poor communities are disproportionately concentrated in unskilled and semi-skilled jobs’ ‘If they actually listened they would find that we don’t want to be unemployed, we don’t want to sit inside’ 
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