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Childcare, Violence against Women, Decent Work: Turn it around for women in Budget 2016

Published: Monday, September 14, 2015

Women’s economic situation has deteriorated significantly over recent years in Ireland. The Gender Pay Gap has widened from 12.6% to 14.4%. Women in couples lost 14% of their income during the recession compared to 9% for men.  A majority of low paid workers are women with 50% of women workers earning less then €20,000. 63% of lone parents, most of them women, are suffering ‘material deprivation’.

Launching its 2016 Pre Budget Submission at a press conference today, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) called on the Government to deliver a ‘360 degree change’ and ‘turn it around for women in Budget 2016’ by investing in three key areas – Early Years Care and Education, Violence against Women and Decent Work. NWCI also highlighted six game changers which could make a real difference to gender equality in Ireland.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said,
“We cannot afford a budget that offers more of the same or only small adjustments. Budget 2016 must invest and deliver an Early Years infrastructure that is of high quality, accessible and affordable. We must change our poor track record on violence against women by restoring funding to both frontline and policy organisations and investing in meeting the standards of the Council of Europe Convention on Violence against Women. And we must break the poverty trap for many women who are working on low pay and precarious contracts by increasing the minimum wage and strengthening regulation around precarious work.”

Linda Brennan, Parent, ‘Women’s Champion’ in Symantec and NWCI member, said,
“Families with young children are crippled by the costs of childcare which are now one of the highest in Europe. Many women feel they don’t even have the option to work outside of the home because of the costs. Investing in early childhood care and education is a win-win situation for all, children, women and society as a whole. Creating and improving a secure foundation in early childhood care will help our children to develop and prosper. And it will fill the missing piece that will enable women to reach their full potential at work and in public and civic life.”

Orla O’Connor continued,
“Violence against women is a pervasive issue that needs priority action in Ireland. One in five women experience physical or sexual abuse. Many services are operating at crisis point and the cuts to services since 2008 are putting women and children at risk. It is high time that this Government invests in an infrastructure for change that meets international standards, ensures that women and children are safe and makes the prevention of violence against women a priority.”

Speaking of the six game changers, Alice-Mary Higgins, Policy and Campaigns Officer with NWCI highlighted,
“Recent IMF research shows that if you increase incomes at the top ‘the benefits do not trickle down’. NWCI believes that repair and strengthening of the essential public and community services on which everyone relies must be a greater priority then tax cuts for the top third. 
We need an ambitious budget that invests in equality as an essential foundation for sustainable recovery. One way the Government can show joined-up thinking is by attaching strong social clauses, including gender equality and decent work standards, to all areas of public spending in Budget 2016.”

Also speaking at the press conference was Aileen Morrissey, National Coordinator for Training at Mandate Trade Union.

For more information, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, 085 858 9104.

Note to the Editor:

360◦ – Turn it Around for Women

3 Priorities for Investment

Priority 1: Early Years
• Extend current Early Childhood Care and Education to children from age 3 to when they enter primary school. Increase available hours from 15 to 20 per week for 48 weeks per year. Deliver on quality, including secure contracts and pay-scales for staff.
• Cap childcare fees for parents. Introduce a public subsidisation scheme for children of 6-months to 3-years, reducing fees for all parents by at least 20% in this Budget and announce a phased reduction to 60% over subsequent two Budgets, with a greater reduction for those on lowest incomes.
• Deliver promised two weeks paid Paternity Leave for fathers when the child is born, protect 6-months Maternity leave and initiate delivery of 6-months paid Parental leave.

Priority 2: Violence against Women
• Increase funding to effectively implement Victims Directive and meets international standards such as the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention.
• Restore funding for frontline and policy organisations to at least pre-recession levels, including €4 million to fund the Rape Crisis Centres and advocacy work.
• Allocate resources for Garda National Protective Services Bureau for delivery of violence against women remit and establishment of specialist units.
• Fund government led awareness and prevention campaigns to create zero tolerance of violence against women.
• Resource and deliver a long-overdue SAVI 2 Report on Sexual Violence in Ireland.
• Implement Justice Quirke’s 2013 restorative justice proposals and ensure all women affected by institutional violence in Ireland have access to entitlements and redress.

Priority 3: Decent Work
• Increase Minimum Wage and strengthen Low Pay Commission
• Promote Quality standards in part-time work and training
•  Maintain and widen FIS, calculate unemployment by hours not days and ensure jobseekers are not activated into insecure work.
• Strengthen regulation and legislation including limits to use of non-fixed hour contracts.
• Attach Social Clauses and Criteria, including gender equality and decent work standards to all employer incentive schemes, enterprise grants and public procurement contracts

6 Game Changers
NWCI also called on the Government to deliver six Game Changers for women
• Commit to Equality
• Build Intergenerational Solidarity
• Fight Poverty and Exclusion
• Invest in Quality Public Services
• Support Women’s Voices
• Gender Proof Health

0  Where to Say No
NWCI highlighted three areas where to say no.
• No Tax Cuts for the Top Third
• No Marginal Rate Tax Reliefs
• No Major Public Expenditure without Social Clauses