House of Commons
No business scheduled.
Nobody puts baby in the corner
Written by Katie Stanton, associate partner
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner
10 July 2020
We heard on Wednesday a tale ripe with promise. Chancellor Rishi Sunak stood before the Commons, proudly sowing the seeds of job creation to the tune of £30bn.
His focuses were on supporting, protecting and creating jobs – in the arts, hospitality and tourism, in getting young people into quality work, apprenticeships, traineeships and bringing forward new infrastructure investment. He focused on those sectors at the highest risk of failure, the ones in which job losses will disproportionately impact women and black and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals.
Setting aside the fact that maybe we should be directing our efforts toward enabling women and minorities to thrive in sectors broader than the low-paid, part-time roles they are so often resigned to, he did deliver well. Yes, Sunak’s charm, intelligence and impossibly crisp white shirt almost blinded me to the other big, fat baby in the corner: childcare.
A common omission from political decisions, the person who watches your children while you contribute to the economy elsewhere is not quite as sexy as construction, maintenance and the local roads network. But it is infrastructure. Or at least, it should be.
Infrastructure, to paraphrase, is the physical and organisational stuff that enables society, economy and enterprise to function. It’s really important, and the government knows it – heck, the chancellor just threw an extra £8.8bn at it. It creates jobs and helps everything run smoothly and efficiently.
But the definition of infrastructure, in the political sphere at least, is too limited.
If we think of it as everything you need to be able to go to work – roads, bridges, train lines, communication, water, sewage, electrics – a safe place to leave your kid at the start of the day should probably factor. And it is an impossibly simple win for gender equality, particularly as we begin our journey down the long road of recovery.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that UK mothers are combining “paid work with other activities — almost always childcare — in 47% of their work hours, compared with 30% of fathers’ work hours”. Women are currently spending on average 15 hours a week more on unpaid domestic labour than their male counterparts.
The big problem is that we are still thinking about unpaid household labour and childcare as women’s work, and this crisis has magnified that assumption, forcing us back into traditional gender roles by default.
That’s not to mention the fact that childcare is actually good for the economy. Investment in childcare will produce 2.7 times as many jobs as an equivalent investment in construction, according to the Women’s Budget Group.
And it’s needed. As a result of the pandemic, 25% of childcare providers do not expect to be in business next year and 69% are running at a loss for six months.
Undoubtedly then, the burden of childcare – when there is not someone else available to pick it up – will continue to fall on women, as it usually does. All the saving of tourism and hospitality in the world will not change the fact that many women have no option but to stay at home, to go part-time, or to work ‘flexibly’, at least for the moment.
Perhaps, had a woman been in the room when decisions were being made, she might have been able to raise that.
Quarantine rules are to end today for arrivals from 59 countries and 14 British Overseas Territories. Travellers will no longer have to self-isolate for two weeks upon their arrival in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Scotland’s restrictions are slightly different. It will continue to quarantine passengers from countries with a higher prevalence of Covid-19 than its own and the government has issued a different list of exemptions, with only 39 countries featured. Scotland has also made face coverings mandatory in shops from today.
Meanwhile, gyms, leisure centres and indoor pools will reopen in England on 25 July, while grassroots sports and outdoor lidos will resume from this weekend, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said yesterday. Beauty salons, tanning shops and tattooists can reopen from Monday.
The US Supreme Court has ruled about half of Oklahoma belongs to Native Americans, in a landmark case that also quashed a child rape conviction. The justices decided five to four that an eastern chunk of the state, including its second-biggest city, Tulsa, should be recognised as part of a reservation.
Business and economy
High street brands Boots, Burger King and John Lewis announced more than 7,000 job losses between them yesterday as well as a fresh round of store closures. The British Retail Consortium has called on the government to do more to stave off further losses across the sector.
Deloitte is facing a record £15m fine for “serious and serial” failures in its audits of Autonomy, the former FTSE 100 technology group at the centre of one of the biggest accounting scandals in UK corporate history. (£)
London’s largest listed legal services company is to slash £15m in costs as it battles the effects of the pandemic. DWF said yesterday that it had taken “swift management action” to make cuts during its 2021 financial year. (£)
Columns of note
For more on the importance of childcare, this piece by Joe Pinsker in The Atlantic details the unravelling of working parents in America. Even if parents are managing to juggle childcare with their careers during this crisis, something, somewhere has got to give; someone has to make a sacrifice. And it’s usually a professional one.
Kamran Javadizadeh explores how Virginia Woolf kept her brother alive in letters in the New Yorker – a fascinating insight into the power of letters and writing more generally for providing durable relief from truth, for warping “the ordinary progress of time” and, ultimately, immortalising the dead in fiction. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 closed in the red yesterday, falling 1.73% to finish at 6,049.62. Meanwhile the FTSE 250 dropped 1.16% to 16,985.13, as investors worried about the damage new outbreaks of coronavirus may do to efforts at reviving the world economy.
In company news:
Rolls-Royce pledged to generate £750m of free cash by 2022 even as it signalled significantly lower income from its wide-body engine business over the next seven years.
Wells Fargo is considering cutting thousands of jobs as part of a broad strategic review to restore the bank’s profits from unsustainably low levels, according to a person familiar with the situation. The bank has also said it will cut dividends in the third quarter because of new Fed rules capping payouts so they could not exceed average recent earnings. (£)
What’s happening today?
Dp Aircraft I
Grit Real Est.
UK economic announcements
(09:30) Gross Domestic Product
(09:30) Manufacturing Production
(09:30) Index of Services
(09:30) Industrial Production
(09:30) Balance of Trade
Int. economic announcements
(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)
American librarians have asked members of the public to stop microwaving their books. People believe it will help protect them against Covid-19 (it won’t).
House of Commons
No business scheduled.
House of Lords
Orders and regulations
Port Examination Codes of Practice and National Security Determinations Guidance Regulations 2020 – Baroness Williams of Trafford
Terrorism Act 2000 (Video Recording with Sound of Interviews and Associated Code of Practice) (Northern Ireland) Order 2020 – Viscount Younger of Leckie
Environmental Protection (Plastic Straws, Cotton Buds and Stirrers) (England) Regulations 2020 – Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
In recess until 10 August (with the exception of 16, 23, 30 July 2020 and 6 August 2020, on which dates business may be programmed by the bureau)