UK gender pay gap worsens

“Currently, there’s no country in the entire world where a woman earns as much as a man for doing the same job,” began the report from CNN. It was depressing to then go on to read the prediction from the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest survey which also stated that it will take another 81 years for the gender pay gap to close.

In the UK the wage gap sits at 66%, meaning it failed to come within the top 20 in all of the four categories the report measures- economy, education, health and politics. UK has actually fallen in the Global Gender Gap Report rankings, falling from 18th to 26th place, its lowest overall score since 2008.

Unsurprisingly countries from Northern Europe did well overall. The top four on the list Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden remained unchanged from the 2012 and 2013 reports. Some middle income and developing countries entered the list above the UK including, Nicaragua, Rwanda and the Philippines.

The WEF said the UK’s drop in its overall rating this year “was chiefly attributable to a significantly lower score in ‘economic participation’, which measures attributes such as the ratios of women in the workforce, wage equality for similar work done by men, and the number of women in senior roles.”

The WEF found that: “[In the economic participation subsets the UK] appears to remain some way off, with the country ranking 48th in terms of both labour force participation and wage equality and 66th for estimated earned income.

The report also added that the UK is some way off closing its educational attainment and health and survival gaps (ranking 32 and 94 respectively).
This is an alarming set of results and precisely why we need tough legislative action to close the gap, not just slowly allow it to narrow and more than likely peter off. Strong measures are needed because these statistics are unacceptable.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

A government adviser and founding architect of the School Food programme has urged ministers to tackle what he calls ‘holiday hunger’, in the week most schools are on half term. Hundreds of thousands of children from low income families will struggle to eat healthy meals outside of term-time.

There is also evidence to suggest that children who do not receive full meals fall behind their peers when they return to school.

Carmel McConnell, the founder of the magic breakfast, a charity which works to provide more than 440 school breakfast schemes told the Guardian: “We have a lot of kids who survive [in the holidays] on the £1 chicken box and who live on crisps or anything they can get.

“Teachers tell me it takes about a month to get them back to where they were before the school holidays in terms of their digestive system, their hair, their skin, and their teeth.”

How terrible that so many children, possibly in the hundreds of thousands, aren’t getting enough of the right food to sustain a healthy lifestyle and to set them up for the future. The government must tackle this crisis urgently- it really should be a priority.

Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian over the weekend that: “In his anger, Cameron has made Britain a toxic brand.” He couldn’t have made a finer point in his editorial in which he goes on to say that: “Our European partners are not deaf”. In other words they can hear the debate going on in the UK, and they must be pretty fed up that the British Prime Minister doesn’t have a good word to say about the EU.

Cameron had the opportunity to take a different approach, to not alienate the UK from the rest of Europe who are tired of our stance.

As I have said before European politics is very much about negotiation. Discussing issues and resolving them in an amicable way. Freedland says: “Cameron could have played this differently. He could have dispensed with the macho language of threat and talked instead like a man seeking a deal.”

He goes on to say: “He has put party management first and the future of the country second. He has chosen to fight in such a way that he’s now likely to lose a battle he could have won. And it will be Britain that pays the price.”

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Open letter to Nigel Farage on the new member of the EFDD Group

Dear Nigel,

RECONSTITUTION OF THE EFDD GROUP

Having heard in the Hemicycle earlier today (21 October) that the EFDD Group is to be reconstituted, I am now writing to you in my capacity as Labour Spokesperson on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in the European Parliament.

I have heard and read about the misogynist attitude towards women of your new recruit Robert Iwaszkiewicz, his Party, the Polish Congress of the New Right, and its leader, Janusz Korwin-Mikke.

Korwin-Mikke has, in fact, called for the vote to be taken away from women and has also claimed that the difference between rape and consensual sex is very subtle.

Today’s edition of the BBC Daily Politics reported that Iwaszkiewicz has said many wives would be brought down to earth by being hit. During an interview conducted by the presenter Jo Coburn, your deputy Paul Nuttall equivocated quite shamefully, claiming that Iwaszkiewicz’s remarks were a “joke” or that he had been misunderstood.

While it would be too much to expect that UKIP, an anti-EU Party who nevertheless takes European Parliament money while campaigning to leave the EU, would sign up to the EU’s commitment to gender equality, I would at least expect you to take the view that violence against women is wrong and should be stamped out.

However, it would seem that by accepting Robert Iwaszkiewicz from the Polish Congress of the New Right, you do not even agree that women should have the basic human right of freedom from violent harm.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Honeyball MEP

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Hitler-defenders and misogynists – UKIP’s new allies

Nigel Farage has struck a deal with a far right MEP in order to save his political group the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) in European Parliament.

The Polish MEP, which Farage has invited into his political grouping to save it from collapsing, belongs to the Congress of the New Right and its leader, also an MEP but who is not joining the EFDD, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, has questioned the Holocaust and made offensive remarks about the right to vote being taken away from women.

He has also made some terrible remarks about the difference between rape and consensual sex, claiming that “the difference is very subtle”. On the issue of the Holocaust he claimed that Adolf Hitler was “probably not aware that Jews were being exterminated”.

Korwin-Mikke even made remarks about the British national minimum wage claiming it should be abolished. And when he refused to withdraw and apologise for racist remarks he made he was fined 10 days allowance by The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz.

President Schulz said of the incident, in a statement: “As Members of the European Parliament, we are particularly obliged to respect and protect the fundamental values of the European Union. This includes the principle of non-discrimination and respect for human dignity.”

The EFDD would have disintegrated had Farage not invited the Polish MEP, this is because any group wishing to form must have a minimum of 25 MEPs across seven different countries in order to be considered. Farage lost the support of Latvia MEP, Iveta Grigule, who quit the group meaning Farage lost the minimum number of people required to form the group.

The EPLP referred to the party as: “Hitler-defenders and misogynists” and called them “UKIP’s sickening new allies”. Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s Leader in Europe, said: “Nigel Farage’s desperate attempt to resurrect his group has seen him sink to an all-time low. The views expressed by his new allies are sickening even by UKIP standards.

Farage was clearly so desperate not to lose the kudos, power, prestige, extra funding and speaking rights that he has taken this drastic and very worrying step of aligning with a far-right party whose leader has made these dreadful remarks.

Even Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s Front National, refused to form an alliance which included Korwin-Mikke on the basis that his political views are “contrary to our values.” It says rather a lot about Farage and his morals if he is willing to align with a member of a party who has such disturbing views, and which even other far- right politicians refuse to have anything to do with.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

New figures emerged last week which revealed over 1,700 women and girls who have been victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) have been treated by the NHS since April this year.

This is an astonishing figure and shows this disturbing crime has many more victims than was originally understood. The figures provide the first official data on the numbers of FGM cases seen by the NHS in England.

Broken down, the numbers are even more concerning. In September alone 467 previously unknown FGM victims were treated at NHS trusts across the country.

The data has been produced to inform people about the scale and horrific nature of the crime, and is part of a drive to eradicate FGM on British soil. The figures provide a harrowing narrative to what is a vicious crime. You can read more here.

The outgoing president of the European Commission appeared on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday, where he made it very clear that the UK would have “zero” influence if it voted to leave the European Union.

Jose Manuel Barroso warned Britain would not be able to negotiate with the US and China “on an equal footing” on its own. Cameron has failed to understand much of the country’s relationship with the EU and it was therefore not surprising that Barroso concluded by spelling out clearly, that the free movement of people within the EU was an “essential” principle that could not be changed.

You can see the interview with Barroso here.

A bizarre story appeared last week when it was revealed that Apple and Facebook will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs.

A ‘perk’ of up to £12,000 is being offered to help women employees freeze their eggs in order to allow them to focus on their career at the Silicon Valley companies. On the face of it may appear to be a good natured offer, but actually there’s a far more cynical twist.

Of course, should women choose to, they have the right to freeze their eggs but the idea that they should do so in order for it not to get in the way of their careers is both bizarre and offensive.

The freelance journalist, Dani Garavelli wrote in the Scotsman on Sunday how the ‘back-slapping’ culture of these companies considered this to be the answer to a ‘problem’ faced by most businesses. However, it remains totally distasteful to be offered as some kind of incentive or reward package.

As Garavelli says, they are mostly white 20-something men: “You can picture the high-fiving and backslapping that greeted the light-bulb moment. Someone had a vision of a brave, new world in which the whole, messy disruptive business of reproduction could be passed by.”

You can read more of Garavelli’s view here.

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Human Trafficking Victim Compensated

A human trafficking victim from Pakistan who was brought to the UK at the age of nine has been awarded £100,000 in compensation. She received the compensation under the proceeds of crime legislation and it is believed to be the first time it has been used to compensate a victim of human trafficking in this way.

This is a landmark ruling because bringing human traffickers to justice is so incredibly difficult. As I have said many times before, the very nature of the crime means it is often extremely difficult to even identify victims and therefore to prosecute offenders.

But I hope the news of compensation for this victim will encourage more trafficked victims to come forward, not because they may receive compensation but because the compensation should be an indication to them of how seriously the crime is taken by the courts.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the Commission has published the first evaluation of its report examining the EU’s human trafficking strategy. The Commission adopted the strategy two years ago and essentially it aims to protect victims who are bought and sold for sexual exploitation or forced labour or other reasons.

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Juncker’s Commission still being formed

Jean Claude Juncker, the incoming President of the European Commission, is to meet with the new Slovenian commissioner candidate, Violeta Bulc. As long as she proves herself appointable, Ms Bluc will replace the previous Slovenian nominee Alenka Bratusek.

Bratusek, the former Prime Minister of Slovenia, nominated herself to the position after she lost the country’s general election, but was rejected after failing to impress MEPs at her hearing last week.

The EU Observer claimed that Bluc’s candidacy is also not without controversy. The paper reports: “The new prime minister, Miro Cerar, pushed her name through even though seven members of his cabinet were against and only six in favour. But with three ministers abroad and unable to vote, rules of procedure allow unexpressed votes to be counted as positive.”

It has not emerged which portfolio Juncker would offer the new commissioner designate but there is criticism in Ljubljana that she also lacks experience in the political arena.

Last week I wrote for the New Statesman about the Commissioner hearings and also why I feel Jonathan Hill is well placed to represent the UK as commissioner designate. You can read my piece here.

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