How are women hit hardest by economic downturn?

Women have been consistently and repeatedly hit hardest by austerity measures, and tax and benefit changes.

Child poverty is rising. The new two child limit in the Tax Credit system will see another 200,000 children pushed into poverty, and the disgraceful ‘rape clause’ that accompanies it pushes women into disclosing sexual violence in order to obtain financial support.

Single parents have been most adversely affected by cuts to services, and tax and benefit changes. Low income black and Asian women will lose around twice as much money as low income white men.

Women are particularly affected by cuts in social care services, as 82% of the social care workforce are women.

A lack of affordable, flexible good quality childcare is a barrier to women returning to or progressing in work. A part-time childcare place for a child under two costs an average of £6,000 per year, and only half of local authorities say there is enough childcare in their area for every parent that works full-time. At the same time, pay is low amongst the 98% female workforce, particularly in private, voluntary and independent nurseries.

Women born in the 1950s have been disproportionately and adversely impacted by increases in State Pension Age. Many are living in poverty as a result.

What are we calling for?

These problems are far from new. Whilst progress towards achieving economic equality for women has been made in recent years, successive governments have failed to adequately tackle the root causes of the problem, and design policies in a way that reflect the realities of women’s lives in the modern world. We are calling for: 

  • The removal of the two child limit in Tax Credits and Universal Credit.
  • Government to carry out and publish full equality impact assessments of all policy changes and budgets, including intersectional data.
  • A National Care Service, giving social care parity with the NHS, and investing in social care infrastructure with a professionalised care workforce.
  • More investment in high-quality childcare to extend the free offer, make an early education place a guaranteed right, and ensure that working mothers are better off in work once they have paid for childcare.
  • Transitional arrangements for women unfairly and disproportionately impacted by state pension age changes.

Why does it matter?

For women. Women’s economic equality is crucial. Until women are able to fully participate and benefit from the labour market, have control over their personal finances and live free from poverty they will be gravely hindered from achieving equality in many other areas of life – for example, the ability to exert equal influence in the home, or to participate in positions of power and influence in public and political life.

For the economy. Women’s economic equality is crucial for a stable and prosperous economy – for example, the increasing numbers of women in work in recent years has helped to offset the flat wages and falls in income from male employment.

For progress. While we have come used to seeing slow but steady progress toward women’s economic equality in recent years, the impact of austerity and spending cuts continue to leave women facing a ‘triple jeopardy’ of cuts to jobs, benefits and vital services.

What can you do?

Do you believe that no woman should be disproportionately or unfairly hit by spending cuts? Here's what you can do to further economic equality.


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Every year, we mark Equal Pay Day to urge employers and politicians to take serious steps towards closing the gender pay gap for good. Find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved here.

You can also campaign alongside organisations we work closely with, including WASPI, who fight against state pension inequality; and Young Women's Trust, who support low-income or unemployed young women and mothers back into financial stability.


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