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BAME Women

Volume 631: debated on Thursday 23 November 2017

All Departments carefully consider the equalities impact of individual policy decisions on those who share protected characteristics, including gender and race, in line with the Government’s strong commitment to equality issues. From April 2018, the national living wage will increase by 4.4%. Past increases have disproportionately benefited women and those from BAME backgrounds, as well as the disabled.

Does the Minister accept the figures contained in the “Intersecting Inequalities” report by the Women’s Budget Group and the Runnymede Trust, showing the disproportionate impact of tax and benefit changes on women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and will the Government issue an official response?

I am aware of that work. Part of the challenge is that we need to see much more clearly the broader picture in relation to how Budgets and Government decisions affect BAME women. The analysis that the hon. Gentleman mentions does not take into account the impact of the national living wage, the changes we have made to childcare—introducing 30 hours’ free care—the work that we are doing on reducing the gender pay gap, the introduction of shared parental leave or the introduction of increased flexible working. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has been very clear that

“what is possible falls a long way short of a full gender impact assessment”,

and that is the underlying weakness in the analysis.[Official Report, 18 December 2017, Vol. 633, c. 4MC.]

Does the Minister agree that the welcome announcement in the Budget yesterday of £600 per pupil towards the study of maths at higher than GCSE level will be of huge benefit for BAME women, and women across the board, because many studies show that women with higher science, technology, engineering and maths qualifications can earn up to 20% more?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and this has been a focus for the Government for the past seven years. The next steps were announced yesterday, with the £600 extra for young people enrolling on such A-levels, alongside a commitment to have more transparency on the STEM A-level subjects that girls are taking, so that we can really focus on gender disparities and seek to address them. It is probably worth pointing out that maths A-level has been the most popular A-level in our country since 2013, which shows that although we have a long way to go, this Government are already making a difference in successfully encouraging young people to take maths.

The Chancellor’s £1.5 billion package for universal credit will do very little to address the disproportionate impact of previous Budgets and policies on BAME women. According to the Women’s Budget Group, BAME women will be £1,400 a year worse off. Will the Minister make representations to the Chancellor on behalf of these women?

It is worth reflecting on the fact that two thirds of the people who will benefit from the national living wage increase—it is increasing by 4.4% from next April—will be women. Indeed, because of the tax changes we are making, with the increase in the personal allowance from 2015-16 to 2017-18, 800,000 women will be taken out of tax altogether, which is something we should all welcome.

We know that black and minority ethnic women face multiple disadvantages in society, and good information is crucial for sound policy making. I listened to the Minister’s concerns about publishing such information on the impact of the Budget, but may I offer a solution? If the Government were to publish their own analysis of the impact of the Budget on gender and race, everybody would be able to see what the impacts are, and indeed Ministers would be able to make good policy decisions for all groups who are protected.

As I have set out, it is difficult to do that, as the IFS has said. The underlying point, which I think everyone recognises, is that it is very difficult to do the analysis because it relies on assumptions about how income is shared within households. In relation to the outcomes for BAME women, and BAME people more broadly, 3.8 million ethnic minority people are now in work, which is a rise of 1.7 million since 2005. It is also worth telling the House that we are making a particular push on apprenticeships by ensuring that we see diversity among those who are taking them, and a growing number of BAME young people are doing so.