What would a Feminist Green New Deal look like?
The Covid-19 outbreak has accelerated calls for a ‘new deal’ for the British economy. It has highlighted the neglect of public services, lack of resilience and deep-seated socio-economic inequalities, propelling the case for a ‘just transition to a green economy’ or, a Green New Deal (GND.)
“Covid has exposed just how essential our caring industries and the people who work in them are. To build a society that values people and the environment, this recovery must include investment in these already low-carbon sectors. Care jobs are green jobs, any deal to green our economy must lift up and expand these industries as well as decarbonising the high polluting sectors.”
– Maeve Cohen, author of the paper
Though popular, Green New Deal frameworks do not typically foreground inequalities of gender, race and class. A new paper from Wen and the UK Women’s Budget Group called ‘Towards a feminist green new deal for the UK’, and written by Sherilyn MacGregor and Maeve Cohen, seeks to begin filling this gap by asking, what would a Feminist Green New Deal look like?
‘There is a lot of talk about building back better after the pandemic, and a green new deal might be more relevant than ever. But if it repeats the mistakes of the past, by privileging jobs for male workers and doing nothing to change how socially-necessary care work is organised and distributed, then it will not be the kind of transformative vision needed to mobilise mass support. So we’re offering feminist insights to inform a discussion about building back differently.’
– Sherilyn MacGregor, Author of the paper
So what does it mean to pay attention to inequalities of gender, race and class when we think about transitioning to a green economy?
INVESTMENT IN (SOCIAL) INFRASTRUCTURE
There is lots of emphasis on how we can better grow the economy through investment in transport, housing and agriculture but often investment in people gets overlooked. Social infrastructure is about investing in the care economy and therefore in people. We will all at some point in our lives require care and a Feminist Green New Deal will help ensure that this is prioritised. Jobs and training for carers and educators is widely known to be economically, environmentally and equality sound, Women’s Budget Group research finds that a 2% GDP investment in care (e.g. social care, childcare, parental leave and care level) creates double the number of jobs for women and almost as many for men than the same investment in construction.
INCREASING REPRESENTATION IN GREEN JOBS
A Feminist Green New Deal can help ensure that women and other marginalised groups are also represented in green jobs so that their lives and experiences can help shape a future that works for everyone. In order to do this it is vital that women from low income backgrounds and BAME people can access training and development programmes through subsidies or other incentives (including paid education leave) that enrols them in to green jobs. There also needs to be an effort made to encourage women and girls into male-dominated green sectors promoted by the Green New Deal, as well as encouraging boys and men into the already green caring sectors
CARE IS A GREEN JOB
There needs to be a shift in the narrative that is currently being presented around the Green New Deal which focuses heavily on how jobs in construction and technology can help make us greener. We need to start recognising that care is already a low carbon sector and investment in care is key in tackling gender inequality. Women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work sees them own less and earn less over a lifetime as they have less time for paid work. Investing in care creates jobs for women which increases their labour market participation and also enables other women to participate in the labour market and therefore increasing representation and overall achieving equality. Children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, also benefit from high quality childcare and education.
BETTER REPRESENTATION IN DEMOCRACY AND OWNERSHIP
Women, especially BAME and disabled women, are still underrepresented in all areas of political life and rectifying this is crucial to if we are to create a green economy that is inclusive. We need to increase participation on a local level so that we can promote economic, ecological and carbon education in schools as well as through the media, to best engage communities.
Read the full policy paper and the briefing which sets out recommendations for a Green New Deal that puts intersectional gender equality front and centre.
‘We need to ensure that we put equality at the heart of all Green New Deal initiatives – gender, racial and income. Women, especially BAME women, need to be equally involved in shaping a new green economy. Expanding our care economy is key to creating a better, fairer and greener society with equality at the centre.’
– Kate Metcalf, Wen
“One of the key issues that has been largely sidelined by the Green New Deal is care. A key goal of any green new deal framework must be to ensure that care is valued for what it is- the foundation of the environment and economy. Through investment in care we can create gender equality and improve representation of women at all levels of society ensuing that women are fully enrolled in the creation of planning and policy for a greener economy.”
– Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of Women’s Budget Group
It’s time to talk about a feminist green new deal Building back better requires building back differently. We need a ‘rainbow recovery’ by Dr Sherilyn MacGregor and Maeve Cohen
“maybe green is too narrow and making it feminist does not mean painting it purple. To be better requires a radically different vision, a more inclusive vision made up of many more colours. Perhaps instead of a green new deal, we should call for a ‘rainbow recovery’ that mobilises a positive symbol of peace, patience and diversity”