UK

UK Gender Equality Plan Is Lagging Behind Other Countries, Women and Equalities Committee Warns

22 countries have already published their plans.

14/03/2017 09:04 GMT

The UK is lagging behind other countries in setting out plans to achieve gender equality, MPs have warned.

An influential cross-party committee called on ministers to spell out how they will meet an international commitment to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls by 2030.

The Women and Equalities Committee said 22 other countries had already published their plans for meeting the commitment, the Press Association reported.

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The UK is lagging behind in setting out its gender equality plans, MPs have warned

The pledge is contained in Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5), one of the targets agreed by world leaders at the United Nations in 2015.

Other goals include ending poverty, taking action on climate change and ensuring inclusive and equitable education for all.

In a report, the committee said SDG 5 “is more than an international obligation that the UK must meet” as “it represents an opportunity to develop the most effective structures and policies to achieve gender equality in the UK”.

The MPs said the Government should publicise its commitment to the SDGs in the UK and immediately commit to reporting on progress to the UN’s high-level political forum on the issue in 2018.

Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening should take responsibility for ensuring the achievement of SDG 5 across government, the report said.

The Government Equalities Office should develop plans for a partnership between Whitehall and civil society to meet the SDG 5 goal.

The committee’s Tory chairwoman Maria Miller said: “The UK has led the world in developing the SDGs and we should be proud of the Government for championing the inclusion of a standalone gender goal.

“Achieving the SDG 5 commitment domestically is key to maintaining our position as a proponent of women’s rights globally.

“The UK has strong policies in many areas included in SDG 5 but stretching goals need to be agreed to demonstrate commitment to gender equality at home as well as abroad.

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The report urged Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening to take responsibility for the issue

“Other countries, including Germany, Norway and Finland have already set out clear plans for action and the UK appears to be lagging behind.

“We strongly welcome the government’s promise to include SDG 5 in its cross-departmental work, but the need for an overall strategy to ensure its successful delivery is clear. Leadership must come from the top.”

A government spokeswoman said: “No country can truly flourish if half of its population is left behind. This government is committed to achieving gender equality at home and worldwide which is why we ensured there was a standalone Sustainable Development Goal on gender.

“Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals is firmly in our national interest and will benefit the British people. We take domestic implementation seriously and will fully respond to the select committee’s recommendations in due course.”

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “The UK is falling behind internationally in terms of progress to close the gender pay gap, improving women’s representation in parliament and now our approach to the Sustainable Development Goals.

“The Goals are not just for other countries, they apply equally to the UK. It’s vital that the government takes the opportunity presented to achieve that step change in gender equality that we all want to see.”

Last month, ministers were accused of “dragging their heels” and failing to tackle “the root causes of the gender pay gap” for dismissing the Women and Equalities Committee’s recommendations on equal pay.

These included making flexible work more available, encouraging more fathers to take time off work to look after children and creating a new scheme to help stop women over 40 working in jobs for which they are overqualified.

The pay gap will take more than 60 years to stomp out without these measures, campaigners warned.