There has been plenty of media copy over this Parliament apparently documenting the Conservative party’s trouble in keeping the woman voter happy. Many of these stories are on rather shaky ground. The gender gap in voting intention in the UK is far from that observed in the US; where more women are clearly in the Democrat camp. Continue reading
Esther Dermott examines the relationship between gender, age and living arrangements in Britain over the period of 1999-2012. Her analysis finds that older women have gone from being one of the poorest groups to being relatively advantaged. Meanwhile, men living alone are an emerging poor group in Britain.
As we approached the new millennium, the relationship between gender and poverty was clear – being a woman in Britain meant you were more likely to be poor. In 1999 the Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) survey found a significant 6 per cent gap between poverty rates for men and women in Britain. But just over a decade later this gap had almost disappeared; the 2012 results showed a non-significant difference between men and women’s levels of poverty.
When faced with a question about what anyone wants from the 2015 general election, the first port of call is the outstanding resource that is the 2015 British Election Internet Panel Study (BES). Beginning in February 2014 the study will follow a panel of the UK population on to the 2015 General Election and beyond. The data presented here were drawn from Wave 2 of the data with fieldwork conducted in May/June 2014. This wave of the data comprises 30,000 interviews allowing for detailed responses both by gender, and gender in combination with other social characteristics.
Most important issue
When considering what women might want, we first turn our attention to what respondents considered the most important issue facing the country. This question is routinely asked on opinion polls but the BES questionnaire takes a slightly different approach. The question asked here is entirely open ended (people are not given a predetermined list of important issues to choose from); in addition only one issue is recorded rather than up to 3 in most opinion polls.
On a cold and wet November evening some 40 women gathered to discuss the forthcoming UK general election. The panel of speakers – hosted by the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS)’ Gender Research Centre as part of the 2014 ESRC ‘Thinking Futures’ festival of social science, undertook a gendered reading of the forthcoming election.
Gender and voting behaviour
The sociologist Paula Surridge offered new analysis of the British Panel study (BES) data, a panel study of the British population with around 30,000 respondents to each wave. She found:
- a gender gap in identification of the ‘most important political issue’, with
- women more concerned about immigration than men, and
- men more concerned about the economy.
Perhaps surprisingly for the audience, education and health – often cited as issues women are more concerned about – did not feature highly when the question looked at the single most important issue.
If we needed further proof that the Coalition’s policy of charging claimants to bring cases to the Employment Tribunal (ET) posed a serious threat to access to justice in employment disputes, the latest ET statistics published by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) provide it.
The most recent figures, which cover April to June 2014, show that the downward trend in the number of claims brought, which has been recorded for every quarter since fees were introduced in July 2013, has continued. Single claims have fallen by 70% compared with the same period in 2013, with multiple claims down from 1500 to just 500. Furthermore, the introduction in April 2014 of Acas’s early conciliation scheme has had an impact on the number of claims lodged.
Under the scheme, there is a mandatory requirement that Acas must be notified of any dispute before an ET claim can be made. This is to facilitate efforts to settle the dispute. One effect of this is that cases which do end up with the ET now face a time lag of about a month while Acas has an opportunity to intervene. Another effect is that the statistics for April to June 2014 are not directly comparable with the same period in 2013. Nevertheless, there is still a significant reduction.
Last week the Counting Women In coalition published its 2014 report into Sex and Power in the UK. Yet again women will be reading that they are under-represented in British politics: at Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff, Stormont, and in local government across the UK. Meanwhile, resistance to gender quotas continues, with a recent YouGov poll highlighting the lack of popular support for all-women shortlists. It’s time for political parties to show leadership on this issue and follow the global evidence – well-designed and properly implemented quotas are the most effective way to address the under-representation of women. Patience is no longer an option – the time has come for legislative quotas in British politics.
It’s been a year since the government introduced fees for workers making a claim to an employment tribunal. The most recent statistics show that this has led to an 81% decrease in cases. This has profoundly worrying consequences for the future of employment law. Workers who have been unfairly dismissed, subjected to unlawful discrimination, or who have simply not been paid for work they have done now have severely limited access to justice.
So why has the sudden drop happened? Have employment relations in the UK suddenly improved? No. The reason is simply that the vast majority of workers who find themselves in dispute with their employers (or ex-employers, since many claims relate to dismissal) can no longer afford to seek justice.
The coalition government introduced the fees regime largely thanks to unsubstantiated assertions that employment tribunals provided a charter for workers to make unmerited claims and vexatious appeals. The restriction of access to justice on the basis of ability to pay may seem like a contradiction in terms, and the level at which fees have been set is far higher than those for making a comparable claim in the County Court.
In order to even submit a form which enables a claim to be lodged in the system, a worker must now pay between £160 and £250 depending on the nature of the claim. If the claim goes to a hearing, the aggrieved worker must pay a further £230 or £950. This means that in order for many serious claims to be resolved, alleged victims must pay £1200 alongside any other related costs. It is hardly surprising that four out of five people now decide not to proceed.
Russ Jago from the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition & Health Sciences discusses a recent paper in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity on parent and child screen-viewing and its implications.
A body of evidence has shown that screen-viewing (watching TV, using the internet, playing games consoles) is associated with adverse health effects such as increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity among adults. Recent research has also shown that screen-viewing is associated with adverse health effects among children and adolescents such as increased risk of obesity, higher cholesterol levels and poorer mental well-being. Collectively these findings indicate that there is a need to understand children and adolescent’s levels and patterns of screen-viewing among children and adolescents and identify ways in which the screen-viewing levels of children can be reduced. To date the bulk of this work has focussed on older-aged primary school aged children and adolescents with a lack of information about the screen-viewing patterns of younger children. This gap is important because previous work has shown that screen-viewing patterns are established in early life and then track through childhood into adulthood. Thus, there is a need to examine levels of screen-viewing among children at the start of primary school and the key factors that are associated with these patterns.
Sylvia Bashevkin is a professor of political science at the University of Toronto. She visited Bristol University’s School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) last week as the Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor.
Scholars in the UK and elsewhere have spent lots of time studying women’s contributions to legislative politics. Whether they focus on attention to child care and anti-violence policy or the better tone of debate that often follows from electing more women, researchers generally conclude that larger numbers do matter.
One angle that deserves closer attention involves women’s clout in the political executive. The growing concentration of power in the hands of prime ministers and senior members of cabinet means legislators are less and less influential. Even when backbenchers had more power than they now command, the political executive’s ability to shape decisions in areas such as international relations far exceeded that of parliament. For one thing, foreign ministers and the prime ministers who appoint them have long enjoyed access to all kinds of confidential intelligence reports and military briefings that never reach average MPs – let alone members of the general public.
Men’s over-representation and women’s under-representation in the UK Parliament is pretty well known, even if the public sometimes over-estimates just how many women MPs there are, bedazzled by their bright clothing in the Chamber. In fact, men outnumber women by more than 4:1.
Some people may not find this particularly troublesome. Lord Hurd has recently been cited saying that there is a “ludicrous” obsession with ensuring there is equal representation of men and woman in parliament and other areas of public life. We believe very strongly that a diversity of background and experience does matter. And there’s another serious flaw with the Hurd line of reasoning. He says that if voters didn’t want a “good looking chap from a public school” as prime minister they wouldn’t keep choosing them. But the reason feminists have campaigned for All Women Short-lists as a means to get more women at Westminster is precisely because it’s political parties not voters who choose our candidates and party leaders. We the voters don’t get to choose our parliamentary candidates, and therefore who our MPs, are. The reasons there are too few women in politics stems from both a lack of demand for and supply of women candidates: voters don’t punish women candidates. But in the absence of equality measures such as Labour’s All Women’s Shortlists, parties are much less likely to select women in winnable seats, even if fewer women seek selection as parliamentary candidates overall.