Jane Hutt AM, Minister for Finance and Government Business
In support of International Women’s Day, this statement updates members on the work the Welsh Government is taking forward to promote gender equality in Wales, including work in partnership with the European Union.
The outlook for public finances, as a result of the UK Government Spending Review, continues to be challenging. In response, we have based our spending decisions on an analysis of demands and needs in key public service areas which are of particular importance to those who need it most. In the challenging financial climate, we have sought to focus resources on priorities based on an assessment of greatest positive impact and mitigate the effects of austerity where the impact is unavoidable.
This is reflected in our Strategic Integrated Impact Assessment of the Draft Budget. With the need to target funding effectively being more important than ever, we have used evidence of impacts on protected groups, balanced against pressures, to prioritise funding on areas with identified positive impacts.
In considering protected characteristics, gender impacts in Wales are a key focus. Through our approach it was clear that women will be disproportionately hit by the UK Government’s decisions on Welfare Reform. We have taken decisions to mitigate these impacts. For example, in recognition of the role of carers and barriers to education, we have provided funding to establish a targeted further education childcare pilot scheme to remove the barriers to education and tackle intergenerational deprivation. This is expected to have a positive impact on protected groups, particularly on gender.
I also wish to acknowledge the support the Women’s Equality Network Wales (WEN Wales) provides as a member of the Budget Advisory Group for Equality (BAGE). We work with BAGE throughout the year where they provide advice and share expertise and best practice on equality issues which supports the continual improvement of the Impact Assessment undertaken of the Welsh Government Budget.
European funding provides an important contribution to this agenda for Wales. In the last round of programmes (2007-2013), Chwarae Teg's Agile Nation scheme supported over 2,900 female employees to develop their careers and undertake leadership training with almost 2,300 of these participants gaining a qualification and over 500 entering further learning after they left the scheme. Chwarae Teg also worked with over 500 employers to help them address equality issues in the workplace and over 250 of these employers made tangible improvements to their equality strategies and systems. The Agile Nation scheme cost just under £12.5m, with £8.5m of this invested from the European Social Fund.
EU funds also supported schemes such as STEM Cymru, which helped young people aged 11-19 to access and develop STEM training. Over half (55%) of participants benefiting from this scheme were girls (just over 4,000). The STEM Cymru project cost £2.8m with £2.1m of this being invested from the European Social Fund.
The Women Adding Value in the Economy (WAVE) scheme also helped tackle the underlying issues that contribute to gender pay inequalities in Wales. The WAVE team at Cardiff University worked directly with willing and committed large employers to analyse gender pay gaps and offer advice on action – this enabled them to produce a Gender Employment and Pay Analysis Method (GEPA). Based on detailed workforce and pay analysis, three large employers embarked on extensive change management programmes covering over 23,000 employees. The WAVE project cost £4.9m, with £3.2m of this invested from the European Social Fund.
In addition to these schemes, all EU funded projects needed to address equality issues (gender, Welsh language, etc) when delivering their schemes. Women also benefited from many employment and skills schemes including the Welsh Government’s All Wales Apprenticeships and Traineeships schemes.
Building on these achievements, the new round of programmes (2014-2020) are continuing to invest in skills to improve people’s prospects of career progression and higher earnings, as well as promoting gender equality in the workplace.
Investments announced include £8.5m of EU funds for Chwarae Teg's Agile Nation 2 scheme, to help address gender imbalance in the work force. The scheme is supporting women in work to develop their careers by delivering accredited leadership qualifications and mentoring, and will support businesses to implement equality strategies and modern working practices. Agile Nation 2 will work with over 2,000 participants, of which 75% are expected to gain a qualification and 40% to gain improved jobs prospects. The project will also support 400 employers to adopt or improve their equality and diversity strategies and monitoring systems.
Other investments include £1.7m of EU funds for STEM Cymru 2, which will support nearly 5,000 young people in secondary education (11-19 years) to increase their participation and attainment in STEM subjects. STEM Cymru 2 will encourage more young women to progress into engineering careers - nearly 57% (2,830) of participants will be female. In many of these activities, young people will work in project teams to address engineering problems and build key work skills demanded by employers. In the sixth form strand, teams will work with industrial mentors to develop practical solutions to challenges faced by host companies in the key Advanced Manufacturing sector, with some solutions being taken right through to implementation by companies.
Also, £6.8m of EU funds and £4.1m of Welsh Government funds for the Parent, Childcare and Employment scheme, will help unemployed parents into work or training by helping them with childcare costs. The scheme is being delivered across each Local Authority in Wales and is expected to help 6,400 economically inactive parents (male and female), aged over 25, into work or training. Parents will receive individualised help via a Parent Employment Adviser in their local community. The Welsh Government worked with the DWP to develop the programme and DWP have responsibility for employing the Parent Employment Advisers.