Work In Life: How an anti-poverty approach to employment support could be transformational for women | Employment

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This discussion paper was commissioned by Oxfam’s UK Programme to evaluate the employability support currently available to women, changes in the structure of the labour market, and the shape of current and future funding. It makes recommendations for programmatic responses to support women into decent work – and to contribute to, and develop, the wider policy debate. A Work in Life approach places employment – and employment support – in the wider context of an individual’s life. It requires that interventions are designed and measured, not just on the delivery of job outcomes but also on whether they support a transition out of poverty. Women who are most disadvantaged in the labour market need specialist support to build and develop their networks to support sustainable routes out of poverty. Refugees and migrants are assets to our communities and nations. They need opportunities to achieve and support to succeed. This is an investment in our mutual futures. Work offers women a chance to take control over their lives BUT not all women experience work in this way. We need a new work contract that benefits workers, employers, customers and taxpayers. Shared delivery experiences and expertise, and data transparency are needed to develop an evidence base on effectively moving out of poverty.
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  OXFAM DISCUSSION PAPERS AUGUST 2016 Oxfam Discussion Papers   Oxfam Discussion Papers are written to contribute to public debate and to invite feedback on development and humanitarian policy issues. They are ’work in progress’ documents, and do not necessarily constitute final publications or reflect Oxfam policy positions. The views and recommendations expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Oxfam. For more information, or to comment on this paper, email sfosker@oxfam.org.uk www.oxfam.org.uk   WORK IN LIFE How an anti-poverty approach to employment support could be transformational for women JANE MANSOUR, INDEPENDENT CONSULTANT, FOR OXFAM GB This discussion paper has been commissioned by Oxfam to evaluate the current employability support available to women, changes in the structure of the labour market, and the shape of current and future funding. It makes five recommendations for programmatic responses to support women into decent work and to contribute to, and develop, the wider policy debate. The findings and questions for further consideration are drawn from experience of delivery; qualitative interviews with programme participants and staff, expert practitioners, academic researchers and philanthropic funders; a literature review and detailed policy analysis.  Work in Life: How an anti-poverty approach to employment support could be transformational for women 2 CONTENTS   Summary ............................................................................................................ 3   1   Introduction .................................................................................................. 4   2   Work in Life .................................................................................................. 5   3   Sustainable routes out of poverty ................................................................ 6   4   investing in refugee and migrant women ..................................................... 8   5    A new work contract................................................................................... 10   6   The real sharing economy ......................................................................... 11   7   Conclusions and recommendations ........................................................... 13    Work in Life: How an anti-poverty approach to employment support could be transformational for women 3 SUMMARY This discussion paper was commissioned by Oxfam to evaluate the employability support currently available to women in the UK, changes in the structure of the labour market, and the shape of current and future funding. It makes five recommendations for programmatic responses to support women into decent work, and to contribute to, and develop, the wider policy debate. The findings and questions for further consideration are drawn from experience of delivery; qualitative interviews with programme participants and staff, expert practitioners, academic researchers and philanthropic funders; a literature review and detailed policy analysis. The Women’s Retail Volunteer Scheme   Oxfam is delivering a Unilever-funded six-month pil ot project, the Women’s Retail Volunteer Scheme, in Manchester. The project empowers women with lived experience of poverty to overcome barriers to accessing decent work. The women are from BME backgrounds; some are refugees or seeking asylum, some have suffered domestic abuse, some are claiming Jobseekers Allowance, two are working but in very insecure environments (zero-hours contract and self-employed). The project comprises a six-month placement volunteering in an Oxfam shop (a minimum of two 4-hour weekly shifts); six monthly 90-minute mentoring sessions (plus ‘as required’ email and phone contact) and additional group training sessions, which have included an induction, media training and assertiveness training. The project is being very well received; it has engaged women who are often ‘invisible’ in mainstream provision . The experience of participants, Oxfam shop managers, mentors and the project manager has helped inform this paper. WORK IN LIFE A Work in Life approach places employment (and employment support) in the wider context of an individual’s life. It requires that interventions are designed, and measured, not just on the delivery of job outcomes but also on whether they support a transition out of poverty. Those who are most disadvantaged in the labour market need specialist support to build and develop their networks to support sustainable routes out of poverty. Refugees and migrants are assets to our communities and nations. They need opportunities to achieve and support to succeed. This is an investment in our mutual futures. Work offers women a chance to take control over their lives, BUT not all women experience work in this way. We need a new work contract that benefits workers, employers, customers and taxpayers. Shared delivery experiences and expertise, and data transparency are needed to develop an evidence base on effectively moving out of poverty.  Work in Life: How an anti-poverty approach to employment support could be transformational for women 4 1 INTRODUCTION WHAT IS WORK IN LIFE? Two-thirds of children living in poverty have parents who work. Millions have been spent on employment support programmes, there has been a rise in the working population, and this has been where evaluations and analysis of their effectiveness has focused - on short-term job outcomes. At the same time there has been a transformation in patterns of low income in the UK  –   the IFS note that the ‘new poor’ tend to live in households where there is someone in work. 1   We understand how to get people into work  –  but not how to ensure that work moves people out of poverty.  Realising the political rhetoric that work is the best route out of poverty requires simultaneously a broader focus (on the context in which work sits  –   ‘work in life’) and a narrow focus (skilled, specialist support that does not stop at job entry, or first job), a radical change to the way we assess the effectiveness of interventions (prioritizing economic outcomes over job outcomes) and a place at the (policy and delivery) tables for those whose lives are impacted by such interventions. It challenges the structure of benefit, services and the way we evaluate them. Why Oxfam? One of Oxfam UK’s three strategic goals (2015-2020) is greater numbers of poor women receiving fair pay for their work and better access to decent work. Oxfam’s international experience shows that empowering and informing women has transformational effects on autonomy and leadership (power to), opening up the possibilities of networks (power with), and increasing self-worth and confidence (power within). This global strategic approach offers a challenge to mainstream employment support  –  a vision founded in the reality of women’s lived experiences. We know that sustainable impact requires acknowledging and building on existing skills and involving women at all stages. Why now? This is a time of significant instability  –  Brexit has heightened tensions around immigration and refugees. It is important to amplify women’s voices  to challenge some of the practices that leave vulnerable people more marginalized in the labour market and ensure a stronger floor of rights for all workers. WOMEN AND WORK „Let‟s make this clear –  this is work that starts low paid, and for four out of five  people is still low paid ten years later  ‟  2    Over the last 20 years work has been placed at the centre of the fight against poverty.  While unemployment is often correlated with poverty, increasingly the experience of many, particularly women, and more specifically women from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups, 3  is that part-time work, low hourly pay, temporary or precarious employment are not enough to provide financial stability for an individual or family. Indeed, casualised and precarious work pose particular problems for women, due in part to weaker maternity rights, and difficulties in reconciling variable hours with caring responsibilities. 4  
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