Why feminists should join the Britain Needs a Pay Rise march this weekend

TUC demo

This Saturday, my daughter and I will be joining tens of thousands of women, men and children who will be taking to the streets of London to protest against the impact of this government’s policies on our incomes and living standards.

Low pay is an issue that affects union members and non-union members alike (although it affects non-union members more – the trade union wage premium stands at 8 per cent for men, compared to 30% per cent for women) and it’s an issue that particularly affects women.

Others will have their own reasons for marching but here are just a few of the reasons why I’m going to be on the march on Saturday and why I think the march should matter to feminists:

Women are more likely to be low paid

Women’s work has always been undervalued and underpaid (if not unpaid). This was the case a century ago when the only acceptable work for a woman was a domestic servant or possibly a schoolteacher, and it’s still the case today that the lowest paid jobs are predominantly carried out by women. Of the 2.6m employees in the ten lowest paying occupations, 1.7m employees are female and 1.8m work part-time.

Women are more likely to work part time.

With women accounting for almost three-quarters of Britain’s six-million strong part-time workforce, the lack of skilled, decently-paid part-time jobs affects women’s pay and their careers prospects far more than men. This year for the first time the TUC marked Part-Time Equal Pay Day. Shockingly, the 28th August was effectively the last paid day of the year for women working part-time as they earn 34.2% less per hour than men working full-time.

Women are more likely to be paid less than the living wage

At least a third of women working part-time earn less than the living wage. There are huge regional variations in how many women are paid the living wage. Where I live in London, over 50% of women working part-time earn less than the living wage (currently £8.80 in London and £7.65 in the rest of the UK).

Women are more likely to live in poverty

Single mothers are more likely to be living in poverty than any other group. And, as the Women’s Budget Group and Child Poverty Action Group have pointed out, women’s poverty is clearly linked to children’s poverty. Single women pensioners are also overrepresented in the poverty statistics. A lifetime of low pay, unequal pay, poor pensions provisions, time out of the labour market for motherhood and other caring, and part time work, all add up to an old age lived in poverty for many women.

Women are more likely to be subject to the public sector pay freeze

Women make up over 2/3 of the public sector pay force (closer to 80% in some occupations such as primary school teachers) which means that it is women who have borne the brunt of the public sector pay freeze. The freeze has meant that pay across most of the public sector has increased by just 3% since the Coalition came to power in 2010, while the cost of living has soared. Inflation (Retail Prices Index) for the same period has increased by almost 20%.

Women still earn less than men

You know this already but I think it bears repeating: Last year the gender pay gap widened for the first time in over a decade. It’s forty years since the Equal Pay Act yet the gender pay gap for all workers now stands at just over 19% and it’s even higher for certain groups of women (women over 50 and women working part-time).

The current squeeze on pay has gone on for too long

If it feels like your earnings have been squeezed for a long time, that’s because they have.  Workers across the UK face the seventh consecutive year of falling real earnings – the longest period of falling pay since records began. Even the pay squeeze of the long depression of the 1920s was shorter according to TUC analysis.

It’s time to join the dots. Inequality between the richest and the poorest isn’t a separate issue from the gender pay gap or inequality in pay between men and women. The entrenched inequality that we see in our society is a product of political and economic decisions – decisions which we can influence. The march this Saturday is a chance to demand a fairer and more equal economy from our politicians.

The march is open to all, trade union members and non-members alike.. If you’re worried about bringing kids on a demo, don’t be. TUC marches are always full of families with kids of all ages, from babies in pushchairs miraculously sleeping through all the singing, chanting and whistles, to teenagers getting into the spirit of protest with home-made placards.

If you’d like to join us on the march but not sure how to get there or need more information about the route, just check the Britain Needs a Pay Rise website for all the logistical details including route maps, transport, and access for disabled marchers.

If you can’t make it on Saturday but would still like to show your support, please spread the word via Twitter and Facebook.

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Scarlet Harris
Scarlet is the Women’s Equality Officer at the TUC as well as a member of the Women’s Budget Group management committee.

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