PwC publishes Women in Work Index

Posted: 30/03/2021

The impact of Covid-19 risks turning back the clock on gender equality in Jersey and Guernsey, according to a report from PwC Channel Islands on women in the workplace. 

The Channel Islands Women in Work Index 2021 lists a five-point action plan that would help to put the islands back on track.

Globally, PwC produces an annual Women in Work Index that gauges equality in OECD countries across measures including female employment rates and how their pay and participation in the economy compare with men. 

PwC’s research team examined the Index and assessed how Jersey and Guernsey would perform if included in the Index rankings, based on the latest available data.  

Those findings show that Jersey has slipped from 20th in the 2019 report to 24th in the latest report. Guernsey has fallen from 14th to 19th, moving it to the lower half of the Index with Jersey.

More positively, the Channel Islands outperformed the OECD average for female participation in the labour force, along with female unemployment rates, but it fell down in gender pay gap comparisons. At 21%, this was five percentage points above the UK and one of the highest in the international rankings.

Five-point action plan 

Future Proof Jobs: Increase upskilling to help keep women economically active now, while equipping them with the in-demand skills they and their employers need in future. The skills boost would in turn help women secure higher salaries and hence narrow the gender pay gap. 
Take a diversity lens to key decisions: Look at public policies and business strategies through a diversity lens to ensure women and other potentially marginalised groups are not unintentionally disadvantaged by the Covid-19 response and recovery plans.
Reduce the burden of unpaid care: Policies such as shared parental leave, affordable access to childcare, and flexible working options for women and men enable women to work more and develop their careers. Although valuable strides have been taken, especially in Jersey, it’s important to keep pushing the bar higher. It’s also essential that the value of the unpaid work women do is fully appreciated. 
Open new doors: Both islands can do more to encourage more female participation in work. Encouraging and supporting women who have moved to the islands to set up their own businesses could provide a route back to being economically active, while government could create incentives to promote more female entrepreneurship. At the same time, it’s critical that employers become much more open to possibilities when they think about skills and roles. 
• Tell it how it is: With reporting still voluntary, very few private sector organisations currently disclose their gender pay gap in Jersey or Guernsey. Clearly, they may have other priorities right now – even in the UK, gender pay gap reporting was suspended for 2020 and 2021 – but tracking and reporting progress is the surest way to identify issues that need tackling. What gets measured gets done.  

The report indicates that the main reason why the Channel Islands pay gap is so high is that men still hold most of the senior and best paid positions within businesses and especially in financial services. 

This issue is not confined to the Channel Islands  – latest figures for the UK show that the gender pay gap in financial services is around 30%.

Also highlighted in the report is that the efforts to create more and better paid opportunities for women could be an important part of the workforce-wide upskilling drive the Channel Islands needs to compete in an increasingly digitised global economy.

Sweden benchmark

In Guernsey, the report estimates that increasing the female employment rate to match Sweden’s could raise GDP by 5% a year (equivalent to £176m). In Jersey, matching Sweden would also deliver a 5% uplift to GDP (equivalent to £259m) – a combined boost of £435m to GDP for the Channel Islands.

Figures on jobs also help to highlight the effects of the pandemic on the female workforce. In Jersey, even though female labour participation rates are much lower than men (77% versus 92%), there are still more women than men actively seeking work. There was a 30% increase in women seeking work between December 2019 and December 2020. 

In Guernsey, data available for the first nine months of 2020, shows female unemployment has more than doubled, moving from 141 women to 298, with more women now seeking work than men.

• To view the Women in Work Index click here

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