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Regeneration schemes have done little to improve women's poverty

New studies have found that women's poverty has been poorly addressed by national regeneration schemes, and that local labour markets in deprived communities are not working properly.

The studies, Addressing Women's Poverty: Local Labour Market Initiatives, and Connecting Women with the Labour Market, confirm that women are more likely than men to live in poverty. Although many women in low income households have a strong desire to work they face many barriers. A combination of low wage jobs and inadequate local services are holding them back. These women feel demoralised and overlooked.

Even in areas where there is major job growth, this is no guarantee that women's poverty will decline. The findings show that if the only accessible opportunities for women are in low paying sectors then concentrations of deprivation are likely to continue.

Professor Sue Yeandle, who directed the research programme at Sheffield Hallam University explains, "Although training courses for women in low income groups can be very successful, if progression into paid work is to follow, they need to give women personal support and to be job-focused. Our research also shows that good qualifications do not always lead to jobs for these women. In some localities, even well-qualified women were struggling to enter the job market.

"Our studies show that for women in deprived communities who want to work, pre-employment preparation, mentoring and funding for childcare is crucial. Schemes like Sure Start and Family Centres do meet these needs, but they are fairly small scale and the majority of women who would benefit don't have access. There is also a lack of support for women who don't have children, or whose children have grown up."

"Women's poverty is linked to both occupational segregation and the gender pay gap. Employment which offers a 'living wage' for entry level jobs, flexible working practices and job opportunities that offer real progression would all make a huge difference to the quality of life for women in low income households or living in deprived communities."

This study forms part of a larger research programme, The Gender and Employment in Local Labour Markets (GELLM) research programme, which was funded by a European Social Fund grant, with support from the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Trades Union Congress and twelve English local authorities where the research was undertaken. The findings will be presented at a major conference, Promoting Gender Equality in Local Labour Markets, at TUC Congress House on Thursday 13 July 2006, when the programme’s six new reports will be launched.

Lorna Branton | alfa
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