Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Osborne’s Cuts will hit women hard

The TUC published research today looking at the effect of spending cuts on women and unfortunately it does not make for pleasant reading.  

Jobs cuts in the public sector are likely to disproportionately affect women. The reasons for this are twofold.  Firstly, the public sector employs a high proportion of female workers: 65% of public sector workers are female. This suggests that women are likely to bear the brunt of the job losses in the public sector across the UK in the next four years.   Secondly cuts in public spending are also likely to have a negative effect on equal pay. The gender pay gap is currently smaller in the public sector which means that even if women do manage to find work in the private sector, they are likely to face a reduction in their wages. The TUC has estimated that on average women in the public sector earn almost 40 per cent more per hour than female employees in than the private sector. 

Public sector job losses will also particularly affect women who work part-time, as the average pay for part-time jobs in the private sector is just £6.78 an hour compared to £9.34 in the public sector. The public sector also has a much better track record of providing flexible employment opportunities for women, which enables them to combine childcare responsibilities with work.

Job losses in the public sector will hit women hard and will have an effect on household incomes across Scotland. This will have a particularly devastating effect on households where one partner has already been made redundant or has already taken a pay cut. These cuts are likely to put families who are already struggling in an even more difficult position. 

But the effects of Osborne’s spending decisions do not stop at job losses in the public sector. The reductions he is making in benefits will also hurt women. Lone parents, 90% of whom are female, will be hit the hardest losing 18.5% of their net household incomes, and female pensioners will see 11.7% of their income lost.  The House of Commons Library carried out an audit of the emergency budget which Osborne set in June and found that 72% of the changes in tax, including tax credits and benefits hurt women.

It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that despite all the economic problems we have already gone through, there are still difficult days ahead. It is also difficult to understand the Government’s logic when they make these sorts of cuts. This Government has chosen to make it more difficult for women, particularly lone parents and women who are working part-time, to support their families. The knock on effect on child poverty of these cuts will be severe and may even undo the good work that we have seen on this issue in the last 10 years. 

Plunging families into poverty has serious consequences and we already know from past experience that the effects of these sorts of choices can last a generation.  

Helen Martin - STUC

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