Hammond Criticized for Not Doing More to Help Women in Work

(Bloomberg) -- Philip Hammond drew criticism from members of Parliament for saying narrowing the gap between women and men in the workplace isn’t the government’s focus.

The U.K. Treasury’s economic strategy is “gender blind,” Hammond said, even though its own analysis shows helping women entrepreneurs could provide a multi-billion pound boost to the economy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told Parliament’s Treasury Committee Wednesday that the digitization of the economy alone could help balance the country’s gender pay and productivity gaps instead.

With British productivity among the weakest in the Group of Seven, the U.K. has spent years struggling to lift wages. The under-utilization of women in the labor force also represents a major cost, with women more likely than men to take on part time positions.

When asked by Labour member of parliament Alison McGovern how he plans to tackle the problem of women working in lower output jobs, Hammond suggested there was no role to play for government. “I would expect that as the economy digitizes we will see jobs across the economy increasing in terms of their productivity and the wages they can pay,” he said.

Hammond Criticized for Not Doing More to Help Women in Work

“We have a historic problem of low productivity work. I don’t think this is a gender issue, it’s an issue of the structure of the U.K. economy,” he added. “Raising the productivity performance of the U.K. economy across all areas of work -- full-time, part-time, female employees, male employees -- is an absolute priority.”

Nicky Morgan, the Conservative chair of the Committee, told Hammond that his strategy should not ignore gender given that a recent review commissioned by the Treasury found improving support for female-led start ups and helping them to scale up would contribute 250 billion pounds ($324 billion) of new value to the U.K. economy.

Hammond also said he wasn’t involved in the government’s forthcoming Women’s Economic Empowerment Strategy and didn’t know if he’d met with the Minister for Women Penny Mourdant who is developing it.

“I’ll have to check when and whether I’ve discussed it with her, but it’s not my lead of course. It is her lead.”

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