The WiSE Research Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University engages in dynamic interdisciplinary research involving a range of both theoretical and empirical research on issues of economic equality, gender, social justice and human rights.
Our interest in the proposed Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) focuses on the opportunity to engage in a more expansive definition of investment. At the core of this brief response is the recommendation that the approach to investment as part of Scotland’s economic growth strategy is one that includes investment in the wellbeing of citizens and the inclusion of social infrastructure such as childcare and social care.
WiSE has an established reputation of inclusive, feminist analysis, focused on the contribution of care to the formal economy and the proposition of a caring economy as the ambition for Scotland’s economic growth. Our research on the expansion of the childcare estate and workforce, for example, has been persuasive and effective in informing the significant policy and investment shifts in childcare by the Scottish Government in recent years. This acknowledgement that investment in economic infrastructure extends beyond high-spending capital projects and includes the basic infrastructure of care that affects daily life for almost everyone marks an important advance by the Scottish Government.
The focus on inclusive growth within Scotland’s Economic Strategy is a key platform for the extension of investment and infrastructure to encompass care provision. Furthermore, any approach to investment and growth must be based on robust analysis of proposals and spend by gender and the intersecting characteristics of race, age, disability that affect the lived experience of individuals and their use of ‘infrastructure’ – from roads and pavements, to public spaces and lighting; from nursery and social care provision, to local transport and accessible public buildings. Recent research for the European Institute for Gender Equality highlights the need for public investment and policy decisions to reflect a gendered understanding of how the allocation of public resources will enhance gender equality and economic growth.
Reflecting on the First Minister’s commitment to investment in childcare in Scotland as a ‘bridge to a better future’, Himmelweit emphasises the “fundamental aim of economic development should be to improve the wellbeing of the population as a whole” (Himmelweit, in Campbell and Gillespie 2016). Investment, Himmelweit argues, is more than the revenue or capital in major projects and more than the estimated return to the public finances, although these are both important components of investment. Investment must also be about provisioning for the common good: the public services, especially in care, from which everyone stands to gain – as active citizens, as workers, and from the taxes of workers employed in short-run construction and capital projects as well as in the expanded workforce. Similarly, there is evidence that investment in early childhood care and the pre-school education sector creates more jobs, and that job creation is more gender equitable, than the expansion of the construction sector (Kim et al 2017). These arguments, and the proposition by Kabeer (2012) that gender equality benefits economic growth but the converse is not necessarily true, have informed a series of principles for the development of SNIB. These principles have been developed by Engender, Scottish Women’s Budget Group, Close the Gap and other organisations engaged in gendered analysis of public policy in Scotland. The principles reflect the research interests and findings of WiSE and are consistent with our research on gender budgeting and labour market, and we therefore commend their application to the development of the SNIB and the evaluation of its activities.
Seven principles for a gender-competent Scottish National Investment Bank
- “Equality is good for growth. The converse isn’t necessarily true.” As investment affects men and women differently, the principle of equality and non-discrimination should be core to the Scottish National Investment Bank. Inclusive growth means including men and women and meeting the different needs of disabled, LGB & T, Black and minority ethnic, and older and younger women, and non-binary people.
- Investing in infrastructure should not only mean investment in bricks, steel, and fibre optic cable. Investment in childcare has the same type of impact, and should be considered as infrastructure.
- Growth can come from sectors we don’t immediately associate with productivity such as childcare and long-term care. Unpaid care also underpins our ‘productive’ economy. We want to see care become a key sector of Scotland’s economic strategy and a focus of the Scottish investment strategy.
- Our investment bank should invest in research and development, but the jobs and technologies it creates should benefit men and women, boys and girls. Investment in science and technology should create opportunities for women and girls to benefit on an equal basis, reflecting the differences in their lived experience of health and wellbeing, play, propensity to care, cultural and social interests, and safety.
- Success shouldn’t only be measured by GVA or GDP but by an increase in wellbeing of the people of Scotland. Wellbeing indicators should be created and used to measure the bank’s performance.
- Women’s businesses should stop being undercapitalised, so that they can be as successful as men’s businesses. If the numbers of women-led businesses increased to equal those of men, it would lead to a 5% increase in GDP, equivalent to £7.6bn
- The Bank should be governed by a gender-balanced, gender-competent leadership team. It should gather and publish gender-disaggregated data about its investments, programmes, and services. Its offer should be gender-sensitive and aware that many women start businesses because of their experience of sexism and racism in employment.
Kabeer, N. 2012. Women’s economic empowerment and inclusive growth: labour markets and enterprise development. International Development Research Centre, 44(10), pp.1-70.
Himmelweit, S. 2016. in Campbell, J. and Gillespie, M. eds. ‘Childcare as an Investment in Infrastructure’, Feminist Economics and Public Policy. Routledge.
Kim, K, I Ilcarakkan& T Kaya .2017. Investing in Social Care Infrastructure and Employment Generation: A Distributional Analysis of the Care Economy in Turkey Working Paper No. 882 New York: Levy Institute http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_882.pdf