Progress must not be halted by the economic crisis

06-Mar-2013 @ 16:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

The economic crisis should notaffect gender equality issues or be used as an excuse for inaction, ConservativeMEP Vicky Ford told a forum in the European Parliament today.

She insisted that the most effectiveaction to improve women's opportunities and wellbeing should come at nationaland local level - not through new rules or red tape fromBrussels.

The East of England MEP was on amonga panel questioned by journalists at a forum on "Women and the EconomicCrisis".

 Mrs Ford, a former senior banker aswell as a mother of three, believes the gender pay gap remains a problem butalso recognises that figures are clouded by the large number of women choosingpart-time work for domestic reasons or lack of child care.

Speaking in the run up to Friday'sInternational Women's Day, she said: "Undeniably the downturn has hit women. Inthe UK, 1.12 million women are unemployed, the highest number in 25 years.Employment in the public sector is 65% female, so women have beendisproportionately affected by the Government's essential spendingcuts.

"However, the answer is not torecreate or replicate  those public sector jobs -  instead we must help womengain employment in a growing private sector. Our strategies need to be aboutmaking work pay, helping the lower-paid progress to higher pay and to keep moreof their earnings. Since 2010 more than 1 million jobs have been created withinthe private sector.

"The Government will have increasedthe personal allowance from £6,475 in 2010 to £9,440 by April 2013. This is atax cut of £593 for more than 24 million taxpayers since the General Election.Altogether, we will have taken 2.2 million people on the lowest incomes, mostlywomen, out of income tax altogether. People working full time on the minimumwage will have had their income tax bill cut in half.

"Another key strategy is involving women inentrepreneurship and independent start-ups. The Government Start-Up Loans Schemeoffers small businesses loans of up to £2,500 to help young people launchbusinesses. At the beginning of this year Sage UK found that 50% of women agedbetween 18- 24 years wanted to start their own business - so the appetite isthere.

"Finally, we should not forget the work ourGovernment is doing to tackle crime, violence and coercion against women. We areseeing more rape crisis centres, a crackdown on human trafficking and work toprevent forced marriage."

"Any member state which claims thatthe economic crisis is hampering legislation for women's rights is hiding behindan excuse. Countries which wish to advance women's rights will do so becausethey see the value in it and because it's the right thing todo."

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