For women especially ‘levelling up’ means investment in people, not just roads and rail

Date Posted: Tuesday 11th February 2020

ChildcareEducationGeneral Election 2019IntersectionalitySocial CareSocial Infrastructure

After months of speculation, the government has given HS2 – a high speed railway connecting the North and South of England and costing an estimated £100 billion – the green light. Boris Johnson is also expected to announce a raft of other investments in roads, rail and high speed internet at the budget next month.

Investment in this physical infrastructure, especially buses which are more likely to be used by women and low income groups, are welcome: a third more women than men travel by bus and a third more men than women travelled by rail.

Nonetheless, if this new government is committed to ‘levelling up’ underfunded regions it is not just high speed railways and buses that are needed but investment in social infrastructure.

Buildings and transport are well and good but the government must invest in people and their wellbeing if they truly want to see an end to regional disparities. The UK needs a holistic and fully funded care system that provides for individuals from birth through to old age and all of life’s challenges in between.

Our research finds that investment in social infrastructure will have a huge impact on the wellbeing of people and the economy:

Investment of 2% of GDP in the care sector would create twice as many jobs as the same investment in construction. It would also address the crisis in social care which is hitting women hardest as the majority of those needing care, and the majority of those providing it, paid and unpaid.

Investment in high quality, free, universal childcare would create up to 1.7m full-time equivalent job, increasing overall employment by 4.3 percentage points and women’s employment rate by 6.4 percentage points. Increased tax revenue and reduced social security spending would cover between 95% and 89% of the costs of this investment.

Unlike most other forms of investment spending, investment in care also increases the labour force, by enabling those doing unpaid care to take jobs or increase their level of employment. It is also a relatively low carbon investment compared with other forms of physical infrastructure.

Investment in construction and green technologies should include investment in training and other mechanisms to ensure that women are able to take advantage of the new jobs created in construction and STEM.

After ten years of austerity which has disproportionately impacted women especially BAME women, which has resulted in increased poverty, rising homelessness and a crisis in public services, a change of direction is long overdue.

Beyond roads and rail, this means childcare, health care, adult social care and a dignified social security system.

Social infrastructure is the focus of our budget submission which is available to read here.