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General Election day is nearly here. On the final day of campaigning, we take a look at what the General Election means for transport and gender equality. 

For the transport and infrastructure industries, it’s crucial the next Government commits to investing in transport infrastructure to drive growth. But what does the General Election mean for gender equality in the transport workforce?

With the gap closing between the Conservatives and Labour in the opinion polls, some experts are predicting a hung Parliament. This could mean Labour forming a coalition government with the SNP and/or the Lib Dems. Here’s our analysis of what the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP manifestos say on transport infrastructure investment and gender equality:

Transport infrastructure investment

All the parties have committed to investment  in major transport infrastructure schemes. This includes HS2 and improving rail links between the Northern cities. SNP say connecting HS2 to Scotland must be a priority. They also commit to a high speed connection between Glasgow, Edinburgh and cities in Northern England.

Both Labour and the Lib Dems have committed to Crossrail 2. But the Conservatives have not mentioned the scheme in their manifesto. The lack of commitment from the Conservatives will worry the infrastructure and construction sectors, as Crossrail 2 creates jobs and unlocks development of new homes. The scheme also delivers much needed transport capacity in London and the South East. In its business manifesto, the CBI calls for the next Government to push ahead with Crossrail 2. This demonstrates the importance of the project to UK businesses.

Read more about what the parties say on transport infrastructure investment.

The infrastructure skills gap and women in STEM

It's good to see the main parties are committed to infrastructure investment. But future projects need talented people to plan, develop and build them. So the transport infrastructure skills shortage is another important issue for the next Government to address. The skills shortage means there are not enough people with the skills to deliver future road and rail projects. The previous Government predicted the shortfall will be 55,000 workers by 2020, so this is a big issue.

The main parties have pledged to guarantee the rights of EU nationals working in the UK. The SNP will seek devolution of immigration powers so that Scotland can have its own policy. Guaranteeing these rights is important as EU nationals make up part of the construction industry’s workforce. This is especially true in London and the South East.

It's clear that encouraging more women into transport and engineering will address the infrastructure skills shortage. And boosting the number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) roles will be especially helpful.

It's important the next Government presses ahead with delivering a transport infrastructure skills strategy and sets targets to increase the numbers of female apprentices. Industry will also want to have its say and help the new Government shape strategy for addressing the under-representation of women in transport and women in STEM. 

On STEM, the Conservatives have pledged to establish new institutes of technology, linked to universities. The institutes would offer degree courses and above, higher level apprenticeships and bespoke courses for employers. The Conservative manifesto also pledges to explore teaching apprenticeships sponsored by major companies, especially in STEM subjects.

Labour's manifesto doesn’t specifically mention STEM but says it will set targets to ensure broad representation of women, ethnic minorities, LGBT and disabled people in all apprenticeships.

The Lib Dems are pledging to hold an annual parliamentary debate on skill and labour market shortfalls and surpluses to identify the migration necessary to meet the UK’s needs. They’ll also reinstate post-study work visas for STEM graduates who find suitable employment within six months of graduating. The manifesto says the party will work to ensure gender balance in apprenticeships.

It’s also worth noting that both the Green Party and the Women’s Equality Party make specific commitments about increasing the number of women in STEM roles:

  • Women’s Equality Party - encourage more girls to take subjects that will lead to careers in STEM and end the “leaky pipeline” that prevents talented women from entering and thriving in STEM industries.

  • Green Party - create jobs for more women in STEM in renewables and sustainability. Currently, just 5% of engineering apprentices are women. This would be accompanied by specific initiatives to train and encourage young women to fill these roles.

Gender equality and supporting parents

Manifesto pledges that promote workforce gender equality and support parents are important for the transport and infrastructure industries in this General Election.

Research shows diversity is good for business. A recent CBI study estimates that increasing female employment and productivity to the levels of men is worth 35% of GDP. Firms with the highest levels of gender and ethnic diversity are 15% and 35% more likely to outperform their competitors.

Despite the business benefits being clear, women continue to be under-represented in the transport workforce. The latest EU figures show that women occupy just 22% of UK transport jobs. 

Policies that promote gender equality and support parents are crucial in helping businesses attract and keep women. This is important in all industries, not just those where women are under-represented.

All four parties have committed to taking measures to close the gender pay gap. The Conservatives, Lib Dems and the SNP are pledging to take action to increase the number of women on boards. Both Labour and the Lib Dems will encourage new fathers to take more time off with a month’s paid paternity leave. The Lib Dems are also pledging to extend shared parental leave with an extra ‘use it’ or ‘lose it’ month. On childcare, both the Lib Dem and the SNP manifestos outline longer term ambitions to provide 30 hours free childcare a week. 

Read more about what the manifestos say on gender equality and supporting parents.

Find out more

We hope you found this article helpful. Please visit our website to find out more about JFG Comms and our work. We connect people and policymakers on transport and infrastructure and improve gender diversity in the transport workforce.