Supporting Economic recovery : Scottish Parliament speech 26 March 2009

I welcome the opportunity to participate in this important debate.
There is a danger of a little occupational segregation among MSPs in economy debates, with only men contributing to debates on big issues such as the economy while we reflect on social issues elsewhere.
In my speech, I will try to bring the two aspects together.
It is essential to understand the impact of the global economic crisis not just in general terms but in particular terms and for particular groups
The cabinet secretary reflected on that, but he spoke generally about the economy and did not address particular groups' needs.
I will explore with the Scottish Government what its six-point plan and other approaches do to understand needs and impacts and to address them properly.
As John Park said, public procurement alone amounts to £8 billion.
It is right to ask not only how that money is being disbursed but how it can be used to lever in social and economic benefits for the people of Scotland.
We should not separate out that issue, which provides an example of how we can shift from general aspiration to making a difference to individuals, families and communities.
Concerns are already felt about the Scottish Government's willingness or capacity to address equality in its spending. Equality groups have flagged up their concerns about the lack of transparency in the budget and the step back from the progress that had been made on interrogating budgets on the basis of equality.
Ministers have deprioritised equality in the development of single outcome agreements.
This morning, I searched the Scottish Government's website for an updated position, since May 2007, on women and employment, disability and employment, and employability.
My search was fruitless, which is a concern because it suggests that the Government is not reflecting on those critical elements in economic recovery.
In these unpredictable and unprecedented times, I do not set the Government the task of solving everything, but we must ask one question: are the Government's actions making things better or worse?
The first part of Rob Gibson's speech was deeply depressing because the Parliament has put in place opportunities to ensure that the general develops into the particular and to make a difference.
I am concerned that, if the imbalance in need and the disproportionate impact are not understood, the opportunities to protect and support people will be lost.
In that regard, the Scottish Government will make things worse and not better.
In the remaining time, I will flag up some issues.
Low pay remains an important issue for women—16 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women are in low-paid jobs. What does our economic strategy say about that?
On addressing vulnerability to unemployment and redundancy, what is being said about the fact that women are more likely to work part time?
As for occupational segregation, the service industries have been hit more in the recession, and 19.5 per cent of women but only 4 per cent of men are in administrative and secretarial jobs.
There is also segregation within sectors.
In retail, women make up two thirds of the workforce, but still more men are in full-time retail posts.
Women are concentrated in part-time, low-paid jobs and men in management posts.
What is the strategy on the occupational segregation that faces black and ethnic minority communities?
What is being done to address the challenge that people who live in poverty face in securing work when fewer jobs are available?
What is being done to address the scandalous levels of unemployment among people with disabilities?
It is essential that the Government focus on that.
The Government announced an apprenticeship summit, but it was silent on equal access to training.
I challenge it on that: who will be invited to the summit?
I hope that the minister will respond and reflect on what equality groups need to be at the summit to address equal access to training, which must be a key part of the agenda.
The policy of concentrating adult modern apprenticeships in particular sectors has had the consequence of directing moneys away from the sectors in which groups such as women are found.
We cannot leave it to the market to find modern apprenticeships for women while Government moneys are concentrated on construction, engineering and life sciences.
The update on the skills strategy is silent on diversity in need, and it is critical that the Scottish Government should speak on that.
What is being done to continue an employability strategy?
I regret the ending of Scottish Enterprise's role in that, as I remember intermediate labour market initiatives in my constituency that took women who were unemployed, trained them in child care, provided child care, and offered a bridge into employment.
Those initiatives have now gone but must feature once again in the Government's employment strategy.
What is being done to match the package of £42.5 million that has been made available in the rest of the United Kingdom to support the voluntary sector through recession?
The minister often talks about the amount of money in the voluntary sector, but what is he doing to address the impact of recession?
It is regrettable that organisations such as Community Service Volunteers Scotland have to cut back their services when the voluntary sector and volunteering can give people critical skills to face the recession.
Tackling disadvantage is not only for when the sun shines; it is an integral part of economic recovery.
It does not get headlines, but it passes a more important test: it addresses needs and strengthens economic opportunities.
I urge the Scottish Government to recognise that fact in its apprenticeship summit, skills strategy and spending decisions.