Helping more women into work is a top priority if Scotland’s economy is to grow faster, Alex Salmond told an audience of trade union members yesterday.
Addressing the annual STUC Congress in Inverness, the First Minister said the Scottish Government will lead the way by holding the country’s first Women’s Employment Summit later this year.
Building on the success of the special National Economic Forum on youth employment, held earlier this year, the summit will bring the public, private and voluntary sectors together to help more women back into work.
Mr Salmond also highlighted the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting growth by investing in infrastructure – despite a 30 per cent cut in Scotland’s capital budget over the Spending Review – and its promotion of a social wage. He also revealed that 26,427 modern apprenticeships were delivered last year, against the annual target of at least 25,000 and 60 per cent more than in 2007.
The First Minister said:
“Jobs are this government’s top priority and that’s a value we share with the STUC. Last week’s employment statistics showed that Scotland had the biggest fall in unemployment in over a year and now has lower unemployment, higher employment and lower economic inactivity than the UK as a whole. But there is still much more to do, and one of the most pressing issues that we must tackle is unemployment among women who have not shared in that recent job success.
“This is critically important not just for Scotland’s economy but for families up and down the country, which is why – together with the STUC, who first proposed this approach – we will hold a summit within the next few weeks bringing together the public, private and voluntary sectors. We have already begun work with the STUC on a number of issues, including how to attract more women into manufacturing, and we had detailed discussions on women’s employment at our bi-annual meeting with the STUC General Council in February.
“We cannot and should not allow a position where the talents and abilities of the majority of the population are under-utilised. We should not tolerate it as a country and cannot afford it as a society. The women’s employment summit aims to focus all of our efforts on helping create more jobs and helping more women find jobs. I am committed to doing what we can to help families through tough economic times and this is an important step towards that.”
Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary said:
“The STUC is seriously concerned about the rapid increase in women’s unemployment in Scotland. Over the past year, women’s ILO unemployment has increased by over 19 per cent while male unemployment has actually declined. The STUC warmly welcomes the First Minister’s announcement today that the Scottish Government will soon hold Scotland’s first Women’s Employment Summit.
“It is essential that Government works together with all stakeholders to analyse the factors leading to rising women’s unemployment and how these can be effectively addressed. The STUC looks forward to working constructively with the Scottish Government on this key issue over the coming months”.
The First Minister added:
“Last month I announced that we had delivered more than 25,000 modern apprenticeships during the previous twelve months – every one of which is linked to a real employment opportunity. I can tell this Congress that the final figure for Modern Apprenticeships for last year was 26,427 and that the completion rate has increased again to a record 75 per cent.
“In a welcome change which will be important for the future, the number of predominantly young women entering apprenticeships has increased since 2008/9 from 27 per cent to 43 per cent in 2011/12, with a record 11,381 starting over the last 12 months.”