Old boys, old news - women and the cuts

By Emma Husband, Staff Writer


The BBC has today reported that women have been hit the hardest by the cuts imposed by the coalition government in the UK, according to MSPs. With the new government looking to find a further £12bn in welfare savings, the pattern of this gendered burden looks unlikely to change any time soon.

This is not new news. And it doesn't generate nearly as much outrage as it should.

Before the election, International Women's Initiative raised concerns about the lack of accountability by the coalition government for the disproportionate effects that austerity has had on women so far, and about the lack of noise from other parties about issues of gender equality in the election campaigns.

To recap, in an independent review of the effects of the cuts on women, The Fawcett Society reported the burden that austerity has placed on women in the UK. This is helpfully outlined by the concept of 'triple jeopardy': 

  • women are more likely to work in the areas of the public sector which have   experienced the most significant job losses;

  • women are more likely to use the services and benefits which have been cut; 

  • women are left picking up the pieces left from the cuts to these services e.g. being made to take up unpaid care work.

In fact, The Women's Budget Group has estimated that 80% of the revenue raised and expenditure saved through changes to personal taxes and social security since 2010 has come from women.

Women are twice as likely as men to rely on welfare. Even in times of prosperity women still face huge challenges to securing financial independence because of structural inequalities, including wage gaps and maternity leave issues which in turn play out differently according to class, racial and economic background.  

In times of economic trouble or 'recovery', inexplicably and unjustifiably, it is women from lower income backgrounds who have made the biggest sacrifices for austerity. Further cuts to child support and carers' allowance will only see inequalities increase.

We are not all in this together as certain men would have you believe. Poor women are paying for rich men's mistakes.

It is completely unacceptable that the government does not take into account the gendered impacts of its policies. Society thrives when women thrive, ignoring 50% of the population does not a flourishing economy make.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about this whole situation is that it is being ignored, glossed over, and occasionally flat out denied by the government. What's even more worrying is that people are buying it - more women voted Conservative in the last election that the previous one. If we start to believe that this is the best that women can hope for then we jeopardise progress towards equality. We jeopardise all the previous work, the hard earned rights, and we settle for a pale imitation of 'recovery'.

This government needs to be held accountable for the impacts of previous cuts, and the potential consequences of the cuts to come, on women. We cannot let the promise of 'economic recovery' cloud our vision and allow the government to implement its own ideological aims.

The Women's Equality Party has formed in reaction to the dismal job being done regarding gender equality and hopes to put forward candidates at the next election. Whether we support them or find our own ways of striving for equality, something has to be done.