Beyond COvid: The Digest

A gender-equal economy

October 5, 2020
SUMMARY
  • Our In Focus section this week focusses on gender equality, care and Covid-19, following the publication of the seminal final report from the Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy.
  • "Robots don't get sick": Register for our panel discussion on automation and Covid-19 with Dr Carl Benedikt Frey and Will Stronge here.
  • Read our In Brief and Reflections sections for the latest research and analysis around economic recovery and reform Beyond Covid.
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In Focus: Gender equality, care and Covid-19

  • A caring economy. The Women’s Budget Group Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy published its “seminal” final report last week, calling for a radical overhaul of the UK economy akin to the creation of the welfare state in 1945. Read the report here and watch the launch event with Commissioners here.
  • ~~Universal Care Service. The report brings together 18 months of research and consultation across all four nations of the UK, and calls for major transformation of our macroeconomic and social security frameworks - including the establishment of a care service analogous and parallel to the NHS,
  • ~~Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, has called on the Government to "carefully consider" the report's findings.
  • Covid-19 and gender inequality. The Commission's report comes amid increasing evidence that Covid-19 has sharpened the economic disparity between men and women - with BAME, disabled and migrant women suffering disproportionately.
  • ~~Employment. Women are more likely to have lost their jobs and income and are disproportionately in insecure, low-paid and frontline roles; out of over 1 million “high risk, poverty pay” workers, 98% are women - which may explain recent evidence that younger women are "bearing the brunt" of Covid-19's second wave.
  • ~~Unpaid care. As public services are placed under strain, women are picking up the slack with even more unpaid care work, a key explanatory factor for why Covid-19 has disproportionately harmed women's mental health and which threatens to undermine women's economic prospects in the long-term.
  • ~~~~Home schooling:  70% of mothers reported being completely or mostly responsible for homeschooling, and mothers were 50% more likely to be interrupted during paid work hours.
  • ~~~~Discrimination against mothers. A July poll of 20,000 mothers found that of the 15% of mothers facing redundancy, 46% said lack of childcare provision played a role.
  • A gender-equal recovery. Given the disproportionate toll of Covid-19 on women, it is crucial that recovery policies are designed with equality in mind.
  • ~~Social infrastructure investment. Investment in care and other social infrastructure is crucial for tackling the gender economic inequality arising from undervalued paid and unpaid care, the majority of which is done by women.
  • ~~~~It may also be more efficient in stimulating economic recovery than investment in physical infrastructure. Research from the Women's Budget group finds that investment in care stands to create 2.5x as many jobs as investment in construction.
  • ~~Equality Impact Assessments. In the aftermath of the 2010 financial crash, cuts to public services were found to disproportionately affect women, ethnic minorities and other discriminated-against groups, widening inequality.
  • ~~~~Conducting meaningful Equality Impact Assessments can help ensure that, in our recovery from Covid-19, policy decisions do not exacerbate inequality in the same way.
Targeting gender equality in practice:  The Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of Iceland spoke to Beyond Covid about how his government transformed public consultations on wellbeing into policy indicators - showing one way in which equality goals could be incorporated into economic policymaking. Watch here (19:40-35:50).

In brief

  • British Development Bank: Tory-aligned think tank Onward published a new report calling on the Treasury to establish a national investment bank modelled on Germany's KfW.
  • Bailout accreditation?: John McDonnell MP proposed the Business Standards Bill, a system for accrediting businesses on their behaviour in a number of key areas such as treatment of workers, environmental impact and payment of tax.
  • ~~The accreditation scheme is hoped to provide an “effective basis for conditionality in future for the award of government support”.
  • Green Infrastructure in Scotland: The Scottish Government has published a five-year infrastructure investment plan to stimulate a job creation and a green recovery.
  • ~~ICYMI, Common Wealth recently published their analysis of how Scotland could chart a "just and sustainable recovery" from Covid-19.
  • Green Conditionality: Sarah Breeden, an Executive Director of the Bank of England, told a parliamentary committee that the bank will consider environmental conditionality for the Bank’s corporate bond purchase programmes.
  • The economics of Covid-19: The latest edition of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy features research from Gordon Brown, Mariana Mazzucato, Nick Stern, Andy Haldane and others on the economic policy issues surrounding the pandemic.
  • Fossil Fuel Bailouts: G20 energy ministers rubber-stamped fossil fuel bailouts, neglecting to mention the group’s long-standing pledge to end subsidies for the industry.
  • Government retrofit scheme: A new poll commissioned by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit reveals 22 times more people are interested in taking part in the Green Homes Grant scheme than there is capacity for.
  • Monetary Policy: New IMF staff research finds a case for central bankers to take inequality specifically into account when conducting monetary policy.

Reflections

  • Job Creation: Sarah O’Connor wrote for the FT in criticism of the Chancellor's "unviable jobs" narrative and emphasising the need for a Rooseveltian New Deal: "Be bold like FDR and create jobs directly".
  • ~~IPPR Director Carys Roberts has similarly emphasised the need for active job creation in light of the Chancellor's proposals for coaching jobseekers.
  • Childcare: Sophie McBain profiles Britain's "collapsing" childcare system and proposals for reform, including NEF's Childcare Infrastructure Fund.
  • Government Bailouts: David Whyte wrote for OpenDemocracy on the Government’s (quiet) announcement that private equity-owned companies would now be eligible for government bailout loans.
  • Democratising Finance: Marloes Nicholls and David Clarke wrote for OpenDemocracy on how data could transform financial services for the better - but only if accompanied by a democratisation of power within the financial system.
  • International Monetary Fund. New research from the IMF has highlighted the "central role" of public investment in economic recovery, while Stephanie Flanders interviewed the Fund's MD Kristalina Georgieva on "fixing capitalism" for Bloomberg.

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