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Women in the Economy


Women's participation in the labour market contributes significantly to the Scottish economy.

However, for many women a range of barriers exist, preventing them from achieving their full potential in all sectors and at all levels in the labour market. Occupational segregation features as a key characteristic of modern labour markets with an associated tendency for the market to undervalue the jobs that women do.

Tackling all forms of gender inequality and supporting women to access and participate in employment is vital for the economy, health, family life and the community.

Analysis by the Scottish Government has suggested the Covid-19 pandemic could exacerbate existing labour market inequalities for protected groups including women.

The Scottish Government will continue to tackle the gender pay gap and give full consideration to the gendered impact and implications of Covid-19 on the labour market.


1 The impact of Covid-19 on equality in Scotland

This Scottish Government paper reviews emerging evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on equality across several key domains: health, economic, education, safety and security, social and wellbeing, housing, digital, and environmental. It also considers the projected impacts of Brexit on equality and how these interact with COVID-19 impacts.

2. Gender & Inclusive Growth – Making inclusive growth work for women in Scotland

This paper argues that through a focus on paid employment underpinned by a traditional economic macroeconomic framework, limited consideration of the undervaluation of female dominated work and occupational segregation, and the devaluation of the reproductive economy, Scotland’s inclusive growth agenda largely ignores the reality of women’s lives and will not deliver a marked improvement in gender equality.

3. Gender & Economic Recovery

This paper focuses on nine principles to develop Scotland’s existing commitment to inclusive growth.

4. Disproportionate impact: the impact of Covid-19 on women’s labour market equality

This briefing by Close the Gap uses evidence on women’s labour market participation, and analysis of the anticipated economic impacts of the current crisis to outline the impact of COVID-19 on women’s labour market equality.

5. Engender Briefing: Women and COVID-19

This briefing by Engender explores some of the ways in which the differences between men’s and women’s lives play in to COVID-19, and describes critical issues that Scottish Government and parliamentarians should include in their thinking about crisis response, and medium-run mitigation programmes and spend.

6. Women and Unpaid Work: the impact of Covid-19 on women’s caring roles

This report by Engender highlights the impact of Covid-19 on women's caring roles, and makes recommendation for how Scottish Government can measure, value, and reduce women's unpaid work.

7. What Works for Women: improving gender mainstreaming in Scotland

This paper by Engender reviews the history of legal mainstreaming duties in Scotland, implementation of its principal mainstreaming policy - the public sector equality duty (PSED) - and international best practice in gender mainstreaming. It subsequently draws conclusions regarding reform of PSED and recommends new action on mainstreaming by the Scottish Government.


Gender Pay Gap Action Plan

The Scottish Government’s Gender Pay Gap Action Plan published in March 2019. The aim of the plan is to deliver a cross-government approach, tackling the causes of the inequality women face in the labour market. The plan includes over 60 actions to help the Scottish Government meet its commitment of reducing the Gender Pay Gap by 2021.

We have achieved this headline goal and the gender pay gap for full-time employees in Scotland fell from 7.2 per cent in 2019 to 3.0 per cent in 2020.

We recently reviewed the Action Plan to ensure actions remained fit for purpose and supported women through Scotland’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The Gender Pay Gap Working Group provided input to this review and on International Women’s Day on the 8th March 2021 we published the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan Annual Report. The report details our progress to date, including new actions we will be taking forward.

The Gender Pay Gap Measurement Framework was published on 24 March 2021. This supplementary document to the Annual Report outlines the outcomes we seek to achieve, mapping these to the sources of data that can be used to measure progress.

Although we have achieved out headline goal to reduce the Gender Pay Gap by 2021, we know that the gender pay gap is persistent and that we have yet to feel the full impact that Brexit and COVID-19 has and will have on the Scottish economy. We will therefore continue our work to reduce the gender pay gap throughout the reporting year.

You can find the Gender Pay Gap Working Group Meeting Minutes below:


Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Working Group

The Scottish Government’s Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Working Group was established in response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) research published in 2016

The Working Group was chaired by the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills and 13 meetings were held between December 2016 and January 2021. The remit of the group included developing governance; reviewing and enhancing guidelines; ensuring that employers, in particularly small to medium sized businesses, have more access to advice; and strengthening the advice pregnant women receive through NHS channels.

The Working Group has completed its remit but issues relating to pregnancy and maternity discrimination will continue to be represented on the Gender Pay Gap Working Group.

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