The impact of Inclusive Growth on gender equality in Scotland


Since it emerged against a backdrop of increasing poverty and inequality in the early 2000s, inclusive growth (IG) has received a substantial amount of attention within developmental and academic literature.

The emergence of inclusive growth is often associated with the recognition that economic growth alone cannot successfully reduce poverty and inequality. Although there is no universally agreed definition for IG, it is widely accepted that it refers to ensuring more people contribute to, and benefit from, economic growth. In this way, inclusive growth is concerned with both the pace and pattern of growth.

There has been a substantial amount of research on the ability of an inclusive growth strategy to address social and economic inequalities whilst also pursuing sustainable economic growth. It is generally agreed that achieving IG involves removing structural, institutional and cultural barriers to economic participation, and ensuring a fairer distribution of growth benefits.

Despite this understanding of removing barriers to participation, the majority of research on inclusive growth fails to fully consider how gender inequality impacts participation, or only includes a rhetorical inclusion of women under the banner of ‘disadvantaged groups’.

Considering women face gendered barriers to participation and typically receive less of the benefits of growth, it is vital that gender is fully incorporated into any IG approach. By fully embedding the gender dimension into IG, it is likely that a broad range of gender inequalities will be addressed and thus reduced, thus increasing the inclusiveness of growth.

The Scottish Government and Inclusive Growth

The Scottish Government formally adopted inclusive growth within their 2015 economic strategyas a means of ‘tackling inequality’ whilst ‘boosting competitiveness’.

They define IG as “growth that combines increased prosperity with greater equity; that creates opportunities for all and distributes the dividends of increased prosperity fairly”.

Advancing gender equality through maximising women’s economic participation and tackling gender inequality are presented as core elements for fostering IG in Scotland. Thus, Scotland makes a perfect case to explore the relationship between inclusive growth and gender equality.

However, since its introduction, there have been no evaluations on the impact this IG strategy has had on gender equality. The research project therefore aims to address this, to develop an understanding of the impact IG has had in Scotland.

My Research

The main aim of my PhD is to gain an understanding on how inclusive growth has impacted gender equality in Scotland. To do this, it looks specifically at modern apprenticeships (MAs) and how gender imbalances on them have been addressed. MAs were chosen as they are highlighted within the 2015 economic strategy as being a key area for maximising women’s economic opportunities.

Moreover, apprenticeships are heavily gender segregated, and previous research has suggested that addressing this segregation may lead to less gender segregation in the wider labour market. By evaluating how gender imbalances within the MAs have changed since the introduction of IG, we can gain an understanding of how it may impact gender equality more broadly.

Why does it matter?

Since IG is centred on ensuring fair and equal access to participating in, and benefitting from, economic growth, it is crucial that we consider how it affects gender equality. Ensuring more women can participate and benefit from growth is crucial to achieving IG.

By assessing how policies such as addressing gendered occupational segregation within MAs, have impacted gender (in)equality, we can measure the inclusiveness of growth. This research may also shed light on areas of gender inequality that have not improved or are stagnant, thus helping policymakers address them to ensure women are not being further disadvantaged.

Iona Brown is currently a PhD student at Glasgow Caledonian University, where she also completed her masters and undergraduate degrees. Her thesis investigates the impact inclusive growth has had on gender equality in Scotland. Her research interests include inclusive growth, feminist economics, gender equality and equalities.

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