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We Need More Support For Those On The Breadline, As Well As The Jam People

24/11/2016 16:13
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Wednesday's Autumn Statement announcements may help families who are "just about managing", but what about those who are just plain struggling?

Despite working around the clock, low pay and job insecurity are making it impossible for many young women to make ends meet. Nearly a quarter of young women surveyed by Young Women's Trust have been paid less than the minimum wage and a third have been offered zero-hours contracts. 25% are in debt all of the time. 1 in 12 young parents has had to use a foodbank because they couldn't afford to buy food.

A fuel duty freeze will help families who are just about managing, but lots of young women can't even afford the bus to work. Abolishing letting agent fees is a good step forward but it won't help the young women who are stuck living at home because they can't afford monthly rent. Young women understandably say they are worried about their futures. Precarious, low-paid work means many are having to put their lives on hold.

By focusing attention on those who are "just about managing" (now known as "jam" people), the Government must not lose sight of those with the greatest need. Supporting these young women into secure jobs with decent pay will not only help them to gain the financial independence they seek but will help Philip Hammond in his mission to boost productivity.

Enabling more women to work and contribute their talents in the first place would improve productivity and help drive economic growth. Young women repeatedly tell us they want to work but too often they are not given the opportunity. A lack of affordable and convenient childcare remains one of the biggest barriers to employment. Poor treatment and a lack of personalised advice at job centres - recently uncovered by Young Women's Trust - only adds to the problem.

When women do find jobs, they are often in low-paid sectors like administration, care and beauty. Meanwhile, there is huge demand for engineers and construction workers. Increasing productivity means giving young women the skills they need to meet that demand - which would also result in better paid jobs for many.

Paying workers a decent wage has been shown to improve productivity too. Research by the Living Wage Foundation shows that higher wages mean a happier and, therefore, more productive workforce. Higher wages have also been shown to reduce staff absenteeism. Currently, however, under-25s are not entitled to the National 'Living Wage'. Extending this new minimum wage to cover young people would help them to live independently and get on with their lives.

As well as supporting "jam" families, the Chancellor must take action to support those on the breadline. It would make a huge difference to the lives of young women on low pay, as well as providing a much-needed boost to the economy.

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