Women could miss out on economic ‘comeback’
The Fawcett Society welcomes the signs that Britain’s economy is improving but questions the extent to which women will reap the benefits. Referring to ‘comeback Britain’ announced by the Chancellor in the 2015 Budget speech, Belinda Phipps, Chair of the Fawcett Society, says:
“Signs that the economy is healing are welcome of course but we remain concerned that women will continue to bear the brunt of austerity measures, face restricted job opportunities and get stuck in poorly paid jobs.
“The Chancellor said the gender pay gap is falling but this is mostly due to a decrease in men’s wages rather than an increase in women’s. Self employed wage statistics are also not included which is worrying as there is a whopping 40% pay gap between self employed women and men.
“Eighty five percent of all the welfare benefit cuts so far have come from women’s pocket so there’s a real fear they could be further hit. This is on top of cuts in many local council and community facilities which women rely on more intensively than men.
“We call on the government to ensure that women benefit equally from economic growth and job creation.”
Fawcett Society comments on the main points of the speech:
Scrapping national insurance contributions for under 21s and apprentices is to be welcomed, since more young women than men are not in employment, education or training (NEET) (1) At the same time we call on the government to tackle the gender divide in apprenticeships where young women are heading in their droves to the poorest paid industries. (2)
Women make up the majority of newly self employed, and we welcome the Government’s efforts to help them. However, we fear that the scrapping of Class 2 National Insurance contributions will do nothing to tackle the 40% gender pay gap between self employed women and men (3).
We look forward to the implementation of Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010, which will force companies with more than 250 employees to publish salaries by gender and hope companies will be compelled to act on their findings.
Whilst investment in physical infrastructure such as road, rail and North Sea oil will help the economy, the government also needs to invest in our social infrastructure, hospitals, schools, parks and community facilities which are crying out for investment. Women from all walks of life are more likely to use these services and use them more intensively to meet their needs. (4)
Allowing Manchester and Cambridge council to keep 100 per cent of growth in Business Rates, and reviewing the situation for all councils is welcome. However the amount raised this way is a drop in the ocean compared to the continuing drastic cuts in local authority budgets and local services. These impact the most vulnerable in society and disproportionately affect women.
Tax and social security
Whilst the announced reforms to the tax system and pensions will some help women, we are concerned that the Government is neglecting the most vulnerable women in our society. The increase in the personal tax allowance to £11,000 will not help the lowest paid or unwaged, the majority of whom are women.(5)
We are most concerned about the £12 billion cut to the welfare budget by 2018. 85% of all the cuts so far from welfare have come from women’s pockets (6) and as the Chancellor hasn’t detailed the future cuts, we are worried that women will continue to bear the brunt of austerity.
Giving pensioners more flexibility in accessing their pensions and savings could well increase living standards for millions. However women have smaller pension pots than men, if any, and live longer than men, so there could be an increase the income gap between male and female pensioners.”(7)
(1) Young Women’s Trust, Young women: The Real Story, 2013
(2) The Gender Job Split: how young men and women experience the labour market, the TUC 2013
(3) HMRC Personal Income and Statistics 2011-12 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/284786/tables3-12_3-15a.pdf
(4) Unison report, “Counting the Cost.” https://www.unison.org.uk/upload/sharepoint/On%20line%20Catalogue/22422.pdf
(6) House of Commons research quoted in The Independent 6th December 2014 found tax and benefit changes brought in under the Coalition Government have raised £22 billion (85 per cent) from women and £4 billion (15 per cent) from men. Andrew Grice, “Women bear 85% of burden after Coalition’s tax and benefit tweaks”, The Independent, December 6, 2014, accessed March 18th, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/women-bear-85-of-burden-after-coalitionstax-and-benefit-tweaks-9907143.html.
(7) The changing labour market 2: women, low pay and gender equality in the emerging recovery – The Fawcett Society, August 2014
The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights and has its roots in the campaign for women’s votes almost 150 years ago. http://fawcettsocietyshop.com/
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