Spring Budget: ‘Get women back to work to restart the economy’

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Ahead of Wednesday’s Budget, Business Leader got the views of Juggle Jobs CEO, Romanie Thomas, a prominent start-up founder and entrepreneur on how a female-led restart to business in the UK could kickstart the economy.

“Advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth by 2025” – this was the headline from McKinsey’s 2015 report, the power of parity. The central argument being, that increasing economic participation from women benefits everyone, most notably a country’s tax revenues. By this measure, women’s significant job losses during the pandemic will adversely affect tax revenues.

Taking urgent action on items that attract women to the workforce but crucially enables companies to keep them is critical if we’re to economically prosper post-pandemic. Taking a firm stance on flexible working, for example, is essential to making this happen. By normalising flexibility across the board (for men too), companies will ensure that not only do they attract more women, but they retain them. By creating an inclusive environment where men and women prosper, we will quickly accelerate this economic utopia of adding billions to the U.K. economy (and trillions to the global economy).

Despite over 80% of professionals putting flexibility as their top priority, only a relatively few jobs in the U.K. are advertised as such. Recent initiatives from CIPD encouraging the Government to take more decisive action on this are welcome, and we need to heed this advice immediately. The potential outcome of simple measures that support the future of work will have an enormous impact – from collective and individual economic prosperity, to increasing job satisfaction, and finally, directly impacting business productivity.

Companies that are more flexible attract and retain more women. As a nation, we need to find ways to recoup the financial losses from the pandemic, and there is an opportunity for a win-win situation. Becoming firmer on flexibility, making it mandatory for companies rather than optional, will accelerate women back into the workforce. This is something that women (and men) have been requesting for years, even decades, with very little progress. Yet, the pandemic showed companies that they had very little to fear from flexibility, and employees became more productive.

If there is nothing to fear from flexibility, there is nothing stopping us from taking the (small) leap and unlocking the power of female participation in the workforce. Empowering companies to change for good, to make equality a reality, and in turn pay back the debt from the pandemic.

Business Leader then caught up with Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft, who shared her thoughts on what female entrepreneurs need to hear in Wednesday’s budget. 

Over the past year, Coronavirus has shaken the economy from causing redundancies to disrupting careers across many sectors. Perhaps more than any other budget in recent memory, both organisations and members of the public will be hanging on to the Chancellor’s every word to find out what Government support will be available over the next year.

For many, investment in skills support will be key to addressing both the disruption in the UK labour market, as well as the growing digital skills gap. Research from CBI revealed that businesses, government and individuals need to increase spending on adult education by £130bn by 2030 if they are to narrow the skills gap.

Last year, the government launched a Kickstart Scheme to help organisations employ young people and take on apprentices. This has been key to helping address the skills gap faced in the UK and help young people take advantage of the opportunities in the tech sector.

With digital transformation encroaching on all industries, we hope the announcement will include supporting skills growth. This will be a vital step in growing the skills of tomorrow as well as supporting the UK economy to build back up after a year of turmoil.

Could the budget lead to a ‘fairer economy’?

Following the recent news of the UK’s rising unemployment rate, Business Leader spoke to James Reed, chairman UK recruitment giant REED, on how the Spring Budget could make the business world a fairer place for all going forward.

He said: “Today’s ONS unemployment statistics might raise further alarm bells about the economic emergency. However, despite the third national lockdown, the labour market has shown some encouraging signs of recovery since December.

“Job postings on reed.co.uk were up by nearly a third (31%) in January compared to December, and there has been a surge of new jobs added in February with over 165,000 added in the first three weeks of the month – with Customer Service, IT & Telecoms, and Health & Medicine being the most active sectors.

“Thanks to the success of the vaccine roll-out, the recovery is expected to accelerate as current restrictions are eased in the coming months. But the Government must continue to support employers and workers as we transition back to some sense of normality.

“The furlough scheme continues to be a lifeline for businesses. An extension should be considered for those who will still need support beyond April while a phased easing of lockdown measures takes place across different sectors.

“However, more targeted support is also needed for those whose livelihoods have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – including women, workers from BAME backgrounds and the youngest and oldest among the UK workforce. The Chancellor’s March Budget is an opportunity to begin rebuilding a fairer economy that holds the Prime Minister to his word that this will be the last lockdown.”

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