boost to GDP in CI from increasing female employment rates to match Sweden’s rates
gender pay gap
5% boost to Guernsey's GDP
5% boost to Jersey's GDP
The impact of COVID-19 risks turning back the clock on gender equality in the Channel Islands. Getting progress back on track would not only strengthen opportunities for women, but also boost prosperity, growth and international competitiveness. How then can we make equality a reality for women here in the Channel Islands?
The reputation of the Channel Islands, our ability to attract investment and the prosperity we enjoy are all built around the exceptional skills of our people. To attract and retain great talent and project ourselves as a skilled, dynamic and forward-looking magnet for investment, it’s vital that we boost opportunities for women and create a genuinely inclusive working environment.
In 2019, we published Boosting diversity, prosperity and growth: Channel Islands Women in Work Index 2019. The 2019 report, based on 2017 data, found that women are a critical but still under-utilised source of talent and economic dynamism within our islands. In this follow-up report, we look at how far the Channel Islands have come in the subsequent years and how we can work together to accelerate progress.
Our research team analysed how Jersey and Guernsey would perform in the latest Women in Work Index rankings. Worryingly, Jersey has slipped from 20th in our 2019 report to 24th place in our latest report. Guernsey has fallen from 14th to 19th, moving it to the lower half of the index with Jersey.
While the Channel Islands’ indicators remained much the same between 2017 and 2019, other countries have been moving further and faster in improving gender equality. Pace setters include Luxembourg (5th), against which the Channel Islands directly competes for talent and investment.
The good news is that Jersey and Guernsey actually outperform the OECD average for female participation in the labour force, along with female unemployment rates. Where the Channel Islands fall down is in the gender pay gap. At 21%, this is five percentage points above the UK and one of the highest in our international rankings. Only Estonia, Korea and Japan have a higher gap.
Concerns over inequality have been heightened by COVID-19. Women’s jobs are being disproportionately affected because of existing gender inequalities and the disruptive impact of the pandemic on service sectors with high levels of female employment.
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 with more women now seeking work than men.
Women also still bear the weight of caring responsibilities, a burden which has been increased by COVID-19 according to a UN report. Women now spend 7.7 more hours per week than men on childcare.
For nine years, countries across the OECD made consistent gains towards women’s economic empowerment. However, due to COVID-19 we predict this trend will now be reversed. In order to undo the damage caused by COVID-19 to women in work - even by 2030, progress towards gender equality needs to be twice as fast as its historical rate.
At the same time, the pandemic could prove to be a catalyst for progress and change. For one, the upheaval of the past year has intensified the spotlight on inequalities within society and urges policymakers to recognise the value of the unpaid work performed by women.
How can we move forward? Building on the action plan set out in our 2019 Women in Work Index report, here are the five priorities we believe will accelerate progress as we move out of the pandemic:
A step-up in upskilling offers the win-win-win of helping to keep women economically active now, while equipping them with the in-demand skills they and their employers need in the future. This skills boost would in turn help women secure higher salaries and hence narrow the gender pay gap. Globally, PwC research estimates that upskilling could deliver as much as a $6.5 trillion uplift to GDP by 2030.
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. This includes ensuring that upskilling for women forms a central part of recovery plans.
Policies such as shared parental leave, affordable access to childcare, and flexible working options for both women and men enable women to work more and develop their careers. Jersey continues to make valuable strides, with the 2020 extension and sharing of parental leave, as well as the recent announcement to increase free nursery hours from 20 - 30 hours per week from September 2021. In Guernsey, progress has been slower and benefits are less generous.
It’s important to keep pushing the bar higher so that we can match or overtake other countries. It’s also essential that the value of the unpaid work women do is fully appreciated.
Both islands can do more to encourage more female participation in work. A number of women move to the Channel Islands when their partners take up posts in FS here. But unless they’ve worked in FS themselves, they can find it hard to find suitable roles and this may be leading them to opt out of the workforce.
Encouraging and supporting women to set up their own businesses could provide a route back to being economically active. Perhaps 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. In many respects skills acquired in one sector can be easily transferred into another, including FS.
With reporting still voluntary, very few private sector organisations currently disclose their gender pay gap in Jersey or Guernsey. Clearly, they may have a lot of other priorities right now, and 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 and holding the business to account – what gets measured gets done.
In the public sector it’s important to build on the foundations of gender pay gap reporting that have already been disclosed in both islands, by continuing to track and publish progress through annual updates. Having clear targets they are working towards would also be helpful.
Whilst it is disappointing to see Jersey and Guernsey slip down the Women in Work Index, we do feel some progress has been made. But we must acknowledge there is a long way to go and that our efforts need to be ramped up if we want to be seen globally at least on a par with similar jurisdictions.
Keeping a spotlight on gender equality and pushing the bar ever higher will reap considerable benefits for the economic prosperity and global reputation of the Channel Islands. If we don’t, we risk falling even further behind.
Director, PwC Channel Islands
Tel: +44 7781 161874