Mind the gender austerity gap


On 8th March, International Women’s Day is celebrating women’s achievement while asking for a more gender balanced world. At the same time, evidence demonstrates how women in the UK are suffering to a greater extent than male counterparts due to the continued government implementation of austerity. Austerity was rolled out across the UK as a response to the 2008 financial crises. It has led to a cut in welfare benefits and public services, alongside the removal of public sector jobs.

Women have higher participation in public sector
jobs, so cuts have affected them greater

Since the implementation of austerity, there has been a disproportionate impact on not just women, but also those with disabilities, BME households and other low-income groups. In the UK, women are more likely to be poorer due to a looser affiliation to the labour market because of traditional female roles.

These factors, alongside the higher likelihood of single parenthood and the gender pay gap, means women are disproportionally impacted, and they are more likely to depend on the public services and benefits to support their income.

Austerity has had a disproportionate impact on
women, BME people and people with disabilities

Based on research by the House of Commons Library, the changes in taxes and benefits since 2010 have caused an 86% reduction of government spending on women.

The UK Women’s Budget Group has recognised how the shift in the pension age has left a further 23% of single female pensioners in poverty. Simultaneously, lone parents, the majority of whom are women, have been impacted drastically by freezes in child tax credit, alongside the two-child limit. Austerity has also affected women’s medical care access.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2017 demonstrated how the funding for cases of domestic violence has been cut by nearly a quarter since 2010. The number of incidences of domestic violence reported to the police has increased by a third.

Equally, Dr Frances Amery, a researcher at Bath University, believes cuts in spending on sexual and reproductive health have been counterproductive, causing unintended pregnancies and an increase in STIs. The budget cuts to the NHS directly impact women as they make up approximately 77% of NHS staff. The cuts directly make their jobs more difficult and put their jobs at risk.

Reported incidences of domestic violence have increased by a third

As women have higher participation in public-sector work, this indicates the public sector pay cap disproportionately impacts women. The cuts to public sector jobs have led women into more temporary and low-paid positions, and some to unemployment.

Increasing financial insecurity for women continues in the rise of the gig economy, where women are the majority of workers on temporary contracts or 0-hour contracts.

Women are the majority of workers on 0-hour contracts

According to Citizens Advice, these contracts mean individuals have a fluctuation of income, causing problems in obtaining crucial in-work benefit payments.

Overall, women are subjected to further inequality from work, benefits and public services to health-care in austerity. While it is easy for politicians to claim they are promoting gender equality, the accurate measure of a balanced society is through having governments and budgets and policies which work towards and support closing the gaps for women alongside other minority groups.

Photo Credit: Roger Blackwell via Flickr

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