Things have never been so tough for women and their families but David Cameron and Nick Clegg just don’t get it. When it comes to women, it’s out of sight and out of mind for this out-of-touch government.
Instead of supporting women David Cameron and Nick Clegg have tuned women’s voices out. Before he became Prime Minister, David Cameron said by the end of his first Parliament a third of his Ministers would be women. But in fact there are just five women in a Cabinet of 33. They’ve shut women out of the top table of politics and lost touch with the reality of women’s lives.
And when it comes to jobs and wages, women are amongst those hardest hit by the Tories and their Lib Dem allies. Here in the North West, women’s weekly wages are now worth £26.64 less than they were when David Cameron became Prime Minster. With one in four women now earning less than the living wage, too little is being done by this out-of-touch government to help us all succeed, regardless of gender.
Last Saturday we celebrated International Women’s Day 2014. I’m proud of Labour’s record on helping women. I’m also proud that Labour has developed sensible policies that will make a real difference to women in Tameside and Stockport.
Under this government, more women are stuck in low-wage jobs, on zero-hours contracts or working part-time because they can’t find the hours. For many women across the UK this is no recovery at all.
So the next Labour government will make work pay by giving a tax rebate to firms that sign up to become living wage employers in the first year of the next Parliament. We’ll also strengthen the minimum wage and tackle the abuse of zero-hours and agency contracts which disproportionately affect women.
Too many women are being prevented from working because of the soaring cost of childcare – up 30% since 2010. We understand how important it is to enable more parents, especially mums, to return to work. That’s why the next Labour government will increase free childcare for three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours, benefitting working parents and the economy as a whole.
The fight against inequality is in Labour’s DNA and we will always stand up for women on the issues that really matter. In government we opened 3,500 Sure Start Children’s Centres, increased paid maternity leave to nine months, and introduced the National Minimum Wage which has benefitted up to a million low paid workers, two thirds of whom are women.
It’s clear that the Tories simply don’t understand how women are affected by their damaging policies. It’s also clear that only Labour has the vision, record, commitment and policies to really make a difference for women in our area and across the country.