Women’s economic equality, independence and security is vital if we are to secure equality with men in other areas. Rightly or wrongly, more money often does mean more power – over our lives and our wider society.

For this reason, campaigns to secure and protect women’s economic position e.g. the right to equal pay and the development of a welfare system that reflects the contribution that women make to our economy and society (where women still make up the vast majority of unpaid carers in our homes) have been a central part of the women’s equality movement from its very earliest roots to the present day.

But in 2013 UK women’s economic inequality remains extremely high. Even prior to the recent recession women were far more likely to be employed in low paid, part-time work, more likely to head a single parent household, likely to have less financial assets and more likely to live in poverty, especially in older age. At the same time, women’s unpaid labour is worth tens of billions of pounds to the economy every year – unpaid carers (the majority of whom are women looking after children or older or unwell family members) contribute unrecognised billions to both economic and social health every year.

For these and other reasons, benefits tend to make up a 1/5th of the average women’s income as opposed to a 1/10th  of men’s, and women are more likely to work in the public sector and use a number of its frontline services.

At same time men still tend to earn more money and own more assets and have more savings in part because they still undertake far less unpaid caring work or roles. What this means is that decisions on tax and spending affect women and men very differently. For example, cuts to public spending – whether that is services where women make up 65 per cent of the workforce or welfare benefits – will inevitably hit women much harder than men. Whereas tax increases or tax breaks will impact on men more as they earn and own more.

This means that in this age of austerity, where the current government are pursuing an 80/20 ratio of public spending cuts to tax rises, women are facing a triple jeopardy of benefit cuts, job losses and reduced services. Women’s unemployment is at 25 year high and over 75% of the spending cuts to date have from women’s incomes. See our Cutting Women Out campaign pages for more information.

Longer term, we need to see much more action to ensure this does not worsen women’s equality or reduce our independence even further.

Although women in business are playing an increasing role in our economy and its growth, and are critical to its success, we are still a very long way from realising their full potential. For example women only make up 17% of Directors of FTSE 100 companies and it has been calculated that between £15 to £23 Billion or 1.2%  to 3% of GDP of women’s potential labour market potential remains unreleased.

What could make a difference?

Economic policy is a huge area but some key things that could address some of the key issues facing women include:

  • Developing budgetary policy – in particular tax and spending in a way that takes on board the likely impact on women’s equality.
  • Better safeguarding and investing in our “social economy” or infrastructure – cuts to public services and spending may  save in the short but end up costing the exchequer and our society much more dearly in the medium to longer term.
  • Taking more action to unleash women’s economic potential and support  our contribution to growth  whether as employee’s or in greater economic leadership roles – the Treasury is currently a female minister free zone and there are no women on the Bank of England’s  Monetary Committee.


For more details on actions we think this government could take visit our Women and Economy campaign pages.

Latest News
18 Updates
7th Nov 2013

Equal Pay Day 2013

Women ‘working for free’ from now until the New Year, because of 15 per cent gender pay gap Cuts to public sector workforce could see pay gap widen, as Fawcett warns ‘any economic recovery risks leaving women behind’ Unless the government takes urgent action, women will ‘lose their precarious footing in the workforce’ The Fawcett Society is today (7th November)  marking Equal Pay Day 2013 – the point in the year when women... read more

25th Sep 2013

New analysis of the June 2013 Spending Review from Women's Budget Group

The Women's Budget Group have this week published new analysis of the June 2013 Spending Reivew, The group have used a new model of analysis that they have developed (with Howard Reed of Landman Economics ) that combines the impact of tax & benefit changes with the quantifiable cash loss of public services. This finds that  that single mothers and single woman pensioners are hit hardest, with single mothers losing the... read more

25th Sep 2013

New analysis shows how far away UK is from balanced, fair labour market

The Fawcett Society has today responded to a new report from the Office National Statistics considering women in the labour market.   Read the full report here   Daisy Sands, Policy & Campaigns Manager at the Fawcett Society, said: “While highlighting the strides women have made in the workforce over the last 50 years, today’s report serves as a timely reminder of how far we have to go before we have a women friendly labour... read more

26th Jun 2013

Our response to George Osborne’s speech

 Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “It is now widely accepted that the coalition’s decision to rely so heavily on public spending cuts to reduce the deficit is hitting women much harder than men - and widening gender inequality. “Of the £22bn cuts per year to spending on benefits and tax credits that this government has already introduced, some 74 per cent are coming from women’s pockets. (1) “The additional... read more

24th Apr 2013

New report warns of 'female unfriendly' labour market

The Fawcett Society has today published a new report. ‘The changing labour market: delivering for women, delivering for growth’ considers the position of women in the UK’s workforce post recession - and what could happen next. Findings include: Women’s unemployment has risen to a  26 year high whilst men's is decreasing; Government’s plans for growth are leaving women behind: 60 per cent of ‘new’ private sector jobs have gone to men; Almost three... read more

20th Mar 2013

The Fawcett Society's immediate response to the Chancellor’s 2013 Budget Statement

  Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive, said: “Ahead of this budget, Fawcett was clear we urgently needed to see much greater action on the 25 year high in women’s unemployment – 1.08 million women can’t find work.  This can be attributed in large part to dramatic public spending cuts that are also seeing women bear 74 per cent of the cost to reductions in welfare support. "In re-affirming today an approach to deficit reduction... read more

18th Mar 2013

Budget 2013 - Helping or Hurting Women?

*** New report warns Chancellor risks persistent and rising levels of women’s unemployment, diminishing levels of women’s pay across the board; a widening of the overall pay gap between men and women and an increase in the proportion of women in low paid work.*** The Fawcett Society today publishes a pre-budget briefing. ‘Budget 2013 – helping or hurting women?’ includes analysis of the wider economic context for the UK’s 32 million women... read more

28th Feb 2013

Fawcett's bid for a Judicial Review of the 2010 budget

What we did On 1st August 2010 the Fawcett Society filed for a 'Judicial Review' of the Government's 2010 ‘emergency’ budget. We asked the courts to examine whether the budget had been drawn up in accordance with the law - in particular the legal requirement that the government consider the way in which different measures impact differently on men and women. Why we did it The tax and spending measures included in the... read more

28th Feb 2013

Sex and Power 2013: Who Runs Britain?

-      Britain is falling down the global league tables when it comes to women’s access to power and representation in politics and public life more generally -       Continued ‘drift’ is inevitable without real, committed and targetted action -       Political parties should take steps to ensure an increase in the number of women candidates fielded in winnable seats at all levels of politics The Counting Women In coalition has today published ‘Sex and Power 2013:... read more

5th Dec 2012

Fawcett's response to the Autumn Statement 2012

Women will continue to act as shock absorbers for the cuts. Responding to the 2012 Autumn Financial Statement, Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said: “As austerity continues, women are bearing the brunt of spending cuts. We are in the grip of a 24 year high in women’s unemployment, while measures to reduce the deficit have seen welfare cuts fall primarily on women’s shoulders – to date, women have paid... read more

19th Mar 2012

The Impact of Austerity on Women

Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive, said: “The Coalition Government’s first budget in June 2010 kicked off almost two years of dramatic and radical changes to public sector jobs, wages, pensions, benefits, taxes and services. “Ahead of the Coalition’s third budget, this report looks at the effect of these different measures one by one and as a whole. Many of the specific changes we’ve looked at are making life more difficult for women across... read more

14th Mar 2012

8 out of 10 jobs lost in last quarter came from women

1.13 million women are now unemployed, a 25 year high. Women account for 81 per cent of the increase in the unemployment figures in the last quarter - 22,000 of 27,000. Women’s unemployment has increased by 19.1 per cent since the end of the recession, men’s by 0.32 per cent. (1) Responding to the figures, Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “With one week to go until the Coalition’s third budget,... read more

15th Feb 2012

Twice as many women as men lost their jobs in last quarter

Fawcett's response to the February Labour Market Statistics. • Number of women unemployed at a record 25 year high • Twice as many women as men lost their jobs in final quarter of 2011 • Women’s unemployment up by 18 per cent since recession. Men’s unemployment up by 1 per cent since recession. Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society has commented on the latest unemployment figures: “The number of women unemployed now stands at a... read more

29th Nov 2011

Fawcett's response to Chancellor's Autumn Financial Statement

Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive, said: “The Government’s approach to reducing the deficit has seen women bearing the brunt of cuts. Women’s unemployment is at a record high, women are absorbing the bulk of cuts to benefits, and women are being expected to ‘plug the gap’ as services roll back. “Today’s policy announcements have made an already bad situation worse. Capping public sector pay will impact disproportionately on women who make up... read more

24th Nov 2011

Don't Turn Back Time on Women's Equality

The government's approach to reducing the deficit has left women facing a ‘triple jeopardy’ of slashed benefits, jobs cuts, and a reduction in the core public services they rely on for themselves and those they care for. The impact threatens a huge step back in women’s equality. On Saturday 19th November , the Fawcett Society called a national 'day of action', with a clear message to government: 'Don't Turn Back Time... read more

23rd Nov 2011

Pay gap stagnant as women's unemployment continues to rise

The Fawcett Society has today commented on the findings of the 2010 - 11 Office of National Statistics Annual Survey of Hourly Earnings from the Office of National Statistics. Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive, said: “More than 40 years after the Dagenham machinists went on strike, in a move that triggered the Equal Pay Act, women can still expect to earn less than their male counterparts. “We have become used to slow, steady... read more

16th Nov 2011

1.09 million women are out of the workforce

Commenting on news that the number of women unemployed has reached 1.09 million, Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said: "The government’s approach to reducing the deficit is pushing women out of the workplace, and threatening their financial independence. Recent research found that more than two thirds of jobs lost in local government between the first quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2011 belonged to women." "At... read more

23rd Jun 2011

New research: Fawcett & the Institue for Fiscal Studies consider impact of tax and benefit changes

A year on from the coalition government’s first budget, groundbreaking new research from the Fawcett Society and the Institute for Fiscal Studies on the impact of tax and benefit changes on men and women has found: -The government could assess the different impact of its tax and benefit policies on women and men using data currently available. This runs counter to its claim that any meaningful assessment is impossible. - Such an assessment,... read more

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