It is now 44 Years on from when Labour Passed the Equal Pay Act and yet women in the West Midlands are still earning, on average, 20% less than men.
It seems extraordinary in an age when girls are outperforming boys at school, going to university in greater numbers and running FTSE 100 companies that pay inequality still exists, but it does, and more worrying still things are going backwards on David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s watch.
Since elected four years ago, the government has managed to close the gap by just 0.1% and shockingly, last year, for the first time since 2008 the pay gap didn’t just stagnate, it rose.
A few tenths of a percent may not sound like a lot but it makes a huge difference to family incomes. If the Tories and Lib Dems had continued with the progress we were making in Government, women would have an extra £177.30 in their pay packets at the end of the year.
In fact, women have been hit hard across the board. A third of working women are now in low-wage jobs, a record six million women are working part-time where hourly pay is on average a third less than they could expect in a full-time job. And some three-quarters of a million women are now on zero-hour contracts, many of them struggling to get enough hours from one week to the next.
When it comes to supporting women to get ahead this Government has one massive blind spot. Hardly surprising some may say from a Cabinet with just three women out of twenty two full members.
In Government Labour made steady progress to close the pay gap -; reducing it by 7.7 per cent and closing it almost entirely for women in their twenties and thirties working full time.
But it’s time to close the pay gap once and for all, that’s why in government Labour will make achieving equal pay a priority.
We need greater pay transparency so women can see if she’s being paid less to stack the shelves than her male colleague to unload them.
We will support the majority of women working in low-wage and insecure jobs to make work pay by substantially increasing the national minimum wage, tax breaks for companies to pay the living wage and ending the exploitative use of zero-hours contracts.
We will support mums who want to increase their hours by giving every working family 25 hours of free childcare for their 3 and 4 year olds – 38 weeks a year -; an increase of 10 hours a week on the current offer on top of Tax Free Childcare. Paid for by and £800m rise in the bank levy.
And we’ll help parents to juggle work with family life with a Primary Childcare Guarantee, so thatthat parents of primary school pupils are able to access breakfast and after-school clubs through their school between the hours of 8am and 6pm.
Women can’t afford to wait another 44 years for pay equality, and neither can Britain.
Dr Matt Lamb, Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Wyre Forest.