In its report on women and work, the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee says that 'fundamental transformation of the childcare infrastructure must take place' if Scotland is to make any progress on flexible working for women and occupational segregation.
Committee convener Mary Fee MSP, (pictured) said, ‘Women are still swimming against the tide and we continue to address persistent inequality between the sexes.
‘Childcare is at the heart of this, together with the out-dated presumption that women alone will shoulder the greatest responsibility for childcare and the knock-on-effect that has on women and work. This is why we are asking the Scottish Government to outline a timetable for the introduction of a statutory right to childcare, including older and disabled children.’
While members of the Equal Opportunities Committee acknowledge the Scottish Government’s ‘good work’ and ‘initiatives on problems facing women and work’, they argue more could be done.
Last year, the Scottish Government announced plans to increase the free pre-school hours from 475 to 600 hours for three- and four-year-olds under the Children and Young People Bill.
The first minister Alex Salmond told his party conference in March he intended to make childcare one of his top priorities.
The committee report, which looked at flexible working, childcare – including supply and demand, rural areas and the Children and Young People bill, and occupational segregation, also calls for the Scottish Government to encourage other public sector employers to presume in favour of all jobs being advertised as suitable for flexible working and/or being filled on a part-time basis.
Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said, 'When we presented to the committee as part of their inquiry into women and work, we called for a transformation in Scotland’s childcare provision.
'Quality and affordable childcare is it an investment in children’s future which supports educational achievement and helps narrow the gap in inequalities, but it allows parents, mothers particularly, to return to work, if they wish, knowing their children are in safe hands.
'We warmly and whole heartedly support the recommendations of the committee to extend statutory childcare provision up to the age of 15 but would ask that in determining the best way forward, quality, affordability and support for the childcare workforce remains paramount.'