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Byline: DAVE ANDERSON

"CALM down, dear" was David Cameron's notorious putdown of a woman MP. This macho approach alienates many women. The tone he sets persuades people that his party's heart is not making sure that society prospers through using the talents of all. We should also be far more bothered about the dignity of women who, despite great social progress since getting the vote in 1928, still do not receive equal pay for jobs of equal worth.

Today is Equal Pay Day, which aims to highlight when women start working for free because of the gender pay gap.

Despite equality laws, women currently earn just 80p for every male-earned pound. In just the last year, women worked an extra three days for zilch because the pay gap has increased and the Equal Pay Day has been brought forward to reflect this.

Equality for women is in Labour's DNA as can be seen by having more women in senior positions and in closing the overall pay gap for all women by almost one third, and almost entirely for women under 40 when we were last in power.

But it's become tougher for many women under this Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. A quarter of all working women now take home less than the living wage.

A staggering six million women work part time, four times as many as men. Part-time work is paid a third less per hour than for fulltime job and record numbers of part-timers say it's because they can't get more hours.

Women make up the majority of zero-hour contracts. A third of the jobs women have found since 2010 are in self-employment with an average annual income of PS9,800 - lower than the minimum wage if you're working full-time, and 40% less than self-employed men.

So what do we do about it if we return to power next year? For starters, we would require big companies to publish details of their pay gap so that for the first time, women can see if they're being paid less for doing equivalent work, and also expose where too few women are the top jobs.

We will call a vote in Parliament this year urging the Government to embrace pay transparency.

Other measures will help men and women but some will particularly benefit women. Increasing the minimum wage to PS8 means a pay rise for four million low paid women, for instance.

The policy of 25 hours free childcare for working parents of three and four-year-olds will support more mothers who want to go back to work but can't afford it - and that's in addition to tax-free childcare.

Women-led small businesses, which contribute PS70 billion to the economy, are another priority. Labour would back more women to start their own businesses by cutting business rates in 2015 and freezing them again in 2016 for small businesses rather than going ahead with the current Government's corporation tax cut for the largest firms.

Scrapping the detested bedroom tax, which even the Government admits is hitting 400,000 women, will be warmly welcomed by many women.

It has become tougher for many women under this coalition.

As will promises of a real paid job or training for all those under 25 out of work for more than a year, and a real paid job for women over 25 who've been out of work for more than two years. Then there's a guaranteed access to Breakfast and Afterschool clubs when children are in Primary School.

Equality for women benefits all Inequality is important in the NHS, as I know from when I was the President of the biggest health union and represented nurses, who are its backbone. I am campaigning with the unions to ensure nurses and other health workers are paid properly.

No matter how committed people are to the NHS, if they aren't rewarded properly they will ultimately have to walk away.

It is oddly deemed necessary to pay top dollar to recruit bosses but permissible to pay under the odds for those who do the hard graft. Equality for women benefits all.

One day, Equal Pay Days will be history but in the meantime, they help politicians do more to tackle the unacceptable and unproductive gender gap.

Dave Anderson is the MP for Blaydon

It has become tougher for many women under this coalition. Equality for women benefits all
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 4, 2014
Words:727
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