Under the Tories it will take more than 100 years to deliver equal pay, a promise made in 1970 when the Equal Pay Act was passed. This is a fact that should shame us all. Women still earn just 80p for every pound a man earns in Britain.
Across Britain I’ve met women who say life is still tough for them and their families. The economy may be recovering, but for too many women it isn’t reaching their pay packet. In the last year, women’s actual wages fell by around £30 a year – and that’s before you factor in inflation.
Yet, despite this, the Tories and Lib Dems claim working women have never had it so good. Women’s minister Nicky Morgan talks about the “amazing things” the Government has achieved for women.
Let’s look at the facts. David Cameron and Nicky Morgan both like to claim that under their Government “the pay gap for those below the age of 40 has all but disappeared”.
But, after years of the gap narrowing under Labour, since 2010 progress has stalled and, last year, we saw the pay gap back on the rise. Under future Tory governments at the current rate it would take more than 60 years to deliver equal pay – more than 100 years in total since Labour’s Equal Pay Act.
Hundreds of thousands of women in Britain are waking up not knowing whether they’ll even get a day’s work, because of the explosion of zero-hour contracts. As for those who aren’t in work, 60,000 young women have been out of work for over a year, while the number of women over 24 unemployed for over two years is up since the election as well.
Despite all this, the Government’s Women’s Business Council recently claimed that “women’s equality is in a better place than ever before”. Nicky Morgan routinely cites progress of women on boards as one of the Government’s biggest achievements for women.
Yes, there are more women on boards and that should be celebrated. But let’s remember we’re talking about 0.002 per cent of working women.
This isn’t the future we dream of for our friends, daughters, sisters or mums. But this is what David Cameron means when he says women have never had it so good.
Only a Labour government is committed to end exploitative zero-hour contracts and it will take Labour to give thousands of women trapped in long-term unemployment the chance of a real, paid job instead of a lifetime on benefits.
And just as we passed the Equal Pay Act, and closed the pay gap under successive Labour governments, it will take Labour to deliver by ending pay secrecy and telling big employers to publish pay figures.
A few weeks ago David Cameron told Tory MPs that what the Government was really guilty of when it came to women was “underselling” its policies. Many women have gone cold on the Tories because the Government hasn’t shouted loudly enough about what they’ve done for them, he said, not because its policies have let them down.
I’m sorry, David Cameron, but we’re smarter than that.