Hilary Clinton New York Speech

 

This was a big week in the world of American politics, with the current candidates competing for the 2016 presidential race giving their first major domestic policy speech. The first of these were heard this Monday night, when Democratic front-runner Hilary Clinton took to the stand in New York to voice her economic vision.

A key aspect of this vision  was in relation to gender equality. This is hardly surprising given Clinton’s long political history championing  ‘women issues’.  In her speech Clinton declared that America is limiting it’s own potential due to the barriers preventing more women entering and staying in the workforce.

“We  need to break down the barriers so more Americans can participate more fully in the workforce, especially women….we are in a global competition and we can’t afford to leave talent on the sidelines”  she said.

Full-time employment increased from 28.6 per cent of all women in 1979 to 43.6 per cent in 2007, before declining to 40.7 per cent in 2012. Similarly, in statistics that she referenced in her speech, Clinton claimed that in 1990 the U.S ranked 7th among 24 developed countries in women’s labour force participation, but that their ranking has now dropped to 19th.

Clinton presented the scenario of a single mother balancing full time work and community college, highlighting the need for affordable childcare, and a grandmother who watches children for a living but cannot afford to fill her own prescriptions, weakening the effect of providing the childcare in the first place.

She also highlighted wage disparity: that the average American woman makes 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.

All of these barriers negatively impact on the level women can contribute to the workforce, which consequently has negative impacts on America’s economy. According to a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, many economists believe that closing the wage gap alone would lift nearly half of the American population out of poverty. Meanwhile Clinton cited that America’s economic growth had grown by 3.5 trillion dollars over the last four decades, due to the significant increase of female breadwinners. This growth can only continue, as more women not only enter the workforce, but rise to key decision making and management roles.

To achieve this further growth, Clinton has pledged to provide paid family leave, earned sick days, childcare options and fair pay.

Currently, an estimated 43 million American workers have no access to paid leave. The majority of this 43 million comprise of low-wage workers, who may require leave from work due to the recent birth of a child or caring for a sick partner or child, for example.

Many believe the instalment of paid leave, childcare benefits and fair pay options to be a great start to increasing women participation rates and boosting economic growth overall in theory, however they were skeptical of how these polices would become a reality.

Leading American publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post were quick to criticise the lack of specifics in her speech. The editorial board of the Washington Post argued that while her ideas were solid, she left the majority of people wondering how these ideas would be paid for.

Furthermore, Clinton didn’t reference any strategies to reduce negative consequences of a significant policy change. Evidence in other countries demonstrates policies like paid leave and day care can do more harm then good if not executed and monitored properly. For example, in Chile women with or without children started seeing a lower starting pay after a large number of employers to cover day care costs.

For now America and the rest of the world will have to ‘wait and see’ how Clinton and the democratic party aim to combat these consequences, with Clinton promising to go into policy detail further in a later speech.