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FOCUS: How can Jersey address "staggering" number of women not in work?

FOCUS: How can Jersey address

Friday 17 March 2023

FOCUS: How can Jersey address "staggering" number of women not in work?

Friday 17 March 2023

Jersey is falling behind other developed economies like Luxembourg, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK due to its "staggering" number of "non-employed" women.

The finding was featured in PwC's Channel Islands Women in Work Index 2023.

Leyla Yildirim, Chief Strategy Officer at PwC Channel Islands, spoke about the Index at this month's Chamber of Commerce lunch, adding that workforce parity and diversity is a "business imperative" that must be made a priority in the public and private sector.

The PwC Women in Work Index is calculated by looking at a range of measures, including the country's gender pay gap, female employment rates and how their participation in the economy compares to men.

Jersey placed 15th and Guernsey 16th out of 33 countries, behind the UK in 14th.


Pictured: Leyla Yildirim, Chief Strategy Officer at PwC Channel Islands, the speaker at this month's Chamber of Commerce lunch

While Jersey's female labour participation rate is relatively high, the gap between male and female labour force participation is 14%, much higher than the international average.

Leyla Yildirim explained: "We do have a sizeable pool in Jersey of untapped talent, that for a variety of reasons is disincentivised to be working, and we need to look at what are the barriers preventing those people from working and look to see how we can remove them.

"There is a compelling business imperative to fill existing skill gaps and ensure there is a healthy talent pipeline for the future. It should be a top priority to attract and incentivise everyone who is able and wants to, back into the workforce."

The high cost of childcare has meant "it does not make financial sense of women to be going back to work", according to Yildirim, who pointed to the landmark announcement in the UK budget that all England-resident parents of children aged nine months to five years old would receive 30 free hours of childcare per week by September 2025.


Pictured: the UK budget will support those struggling to pay for childcare

Data showed that in Jersey, the average cost of childcare was £440 a week, and over £21,000 a year.

"Is it any wonder we've got high numbers of women not in work when they are having to fork out £21,000 to have their child looked after?" Yildirim added.

The Index claims that matching the female labour force participation rate to that of 5th positioned Sweden could cause a 2% or £77 million increase in GDP for Jersey and help to close the gender pay gap by causing a £187 million increase in female earnings.

"From an economic perspective, there are certainly real benefits to boosting that participation. When we talk about things like childcare, we often hear 'we can't afford it', we have to think about the economic boost that can be gained as well."

When it comes to getting more women into work, Yildirim said we should look to other regions and countries that have achieved success...



Pictured: the Quebec flag, the Fleurdelisé

On the affordability of subsidised childcare, Yildirim referred to a study in Quebec, where an issue with female participation in work was solved by offering universal childcare. The average cost of childcare in Quebec remains £5 a day.

The result? "Female participation rate boomed." The employability rate of women in Quebec rose to 87%, the highest in the world, and it was found that the increase in tax revenue covered the cost of providing the childcare. Furthermore, the whole profession of providing childcare became more attractive and salaries were boosted.

In effect, subsidised childcare paid for itself in the increased tax revenue.

"It is a case study of how levers can be pulled to increase female participation. It is a good indicator of what can be done with the right focus."



Pictured: Luxembourg's childcare policies have allowed it to rank in first place.

Luxembourg tops the Index for the first time, with a gender pay gap of only 0.5%, so naturally experts are looking to the policies in place there to determine what worked.

Kate Wright, co-founder of the Diversity Network, said that "if Jersey was serious about tackling the gender pay gap, the Island should consider the question of childcare carefully."

"We shouldn't always be looking to follow the UK, and there is a lot to learn from other jurisdictions that are getting it right."

"Luxembourg is really interesting as somewhere that has closed the gender pay gap and moved up the Women in Work Index. As well as providing universal free childcare for under-4s, they have a real focus on quality, accessibility and choice of childcare too."

As both the public and private sectors formulate strategies to improve Jersey's ranking, they should follow Quebec and Luxembourg's examples.

Government action

The Index also outlines actions that the government could take to tackle that ranking, including:

  • a strategy to target ‘non-employed’ talent pools - specifically focused on getting people back into work;

  • a review of parental leave and childcare entitlements;

  • incentives to encourage women back into work - looking at ways to further support childcare costs is key;

  • upskilling and reskilling programmes - providing free, easy to access training on the most in-demand skills; and

  • considering legislative moves to encourage employers to be more open to flexible working patterns and to report on areas like gender pay gap.


Pictured: Deputy Louise Doublet, Assistant Children's Minister, has said making childcare more affordable is her 'highest priority'

Business action

Business are being encouraged to understand their workforce demographic and equality gaps, set targets around these and monitor and report for transparency.

They could also:

  • broaden recruitment to appeal to a wider demographic by offering ‘back to work’ training to help ‘returners’ from career breaks learn key skills;

  • embrace flexibility and be willing to consider a variety of flexible requests;

  • consider parental leave and benefits to support both mothers and fathers;

  • review the corporate culture; and

  • make any focus on gender equality leadership-led and accountable.

Yildirim acknowledged: "Not everyone wants to be working. Some people can afford not to, some people choose not to, however, our belief is that there are people who would like to work if the opportunities were there, if the flexibility was there, and if the other barriers were removed."

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