UK: Cameron-led Tory Coalition’s austerity cuts paint dim hopes for women’s economic recovery
London ~ Sunday 22 September 2013
Spending cuts hit women worse, says report
Call for changes in tax and welfare policies as coalition is accused of locking women into poverty By Tracy McVeigh
Women demonstrate against welfare cuts in Tottenham, London, in April this year. (Patricia Phillips/Alamy)
Economists are calling on the government to produce a "Plan F" to tackle the disproportionate burden being placed on women by spending cuts. Female-friendly tax and welfare policies are desperately needed to redress the balance, say experts from the independent Women's Budget Group (WBG), who have produced a report [Read HERE] looking at the impact of austerity policies on different types of family groups in England.
It finds that women, particularly single parents and single pensioners, have lost much more than men from cuts to benefits and public services imposed by the government since it came to power in May 2010.
In the analysis by economists from the WBG, made up of policy experts and academics, those two categories – both dominated by women – face cuts during the period 2010-15 of more than 10% of their disposable income, with single mothers losing 15.6%. Couples with children were shown to be losing 9.7%, while couples without children are losing 4.1%. Women pensioners are losing 12.5% compared with men, who lose 9.5%, and couples, who lose 8.6%.
The "gendered impact" of the austerity cuts paints an alarming picture for the economic recovery of women in England and has led to calls for a "Plan F" – a constructive economic plan to reduce the disproportionate impact of cuts that is locking many women into poverty. The study looked at the cumulative effects of changes to direct and indirect tax and cuts to services as well as social security benefits. It included measures already introduced and others due before the next election.
"What struck us is how single women in all groups do so badly," said Professor Diane Elson of the WBG, a social scientist at the University of Essex. Unemployment rates in the UK have fallen for men and risen for women over the past three years. Out of every 100 jobs created in the private sector, 63 are going to men and 37 to women. Public sector cuts have reduced job opportunities for women and are making it harder to combine earning a living and taking care of families, and also making it more likely that the gender pay gap will widen, she said. "Our big concern is that, even when there is an economic recovery, women are going to be so far behind they will not be able to catch up."
The WBG report looked at the tax cut that was meant to help those on low incomes – the rise in the income tax threshold to £10,000 by the end of 2015 – and found that 57% of those who will gain from this are men and 43% women. Three-quarters of the gains under the change will go to better-off households within the threshold, with the wealthiest 10% gaining £87 a year and the poorest 10% gaining on average £6 a year. The WBG contrasted that gain with the 2011 rise in VAT, which hit everyone in the country, along with the 10% rise in prices over the period of the current government.
"Over the last few years we have seen a worrying trend towards growing inequality and we are concerned that this shows no sign of a let-up," said Elson. "We need the political parties to start to recognise what's happening here and to look at their policies more closely. We need an F-plan."