A cumulative gender impact assessment of ten years of austerity policies

Date Posted: Thursday 31st March 2016

A March 2016 briefing from the UK Women’s Budget Group.

AusterityBudgetSocial InfrastructureUniversal Credit

This briefing examines the real-term distributional impact of tax changes and public spending and social security cuts as part of the deficit reduction strategy implemented by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government between 2010 and 2015 and continued by the Conservative government elected in May 2015.

Key findings:

  • Austerity policies that are planned for the 2015-20 Parliament have an even more regressive distributional impact than those implemented in the 2010-15 Parliament, with the living standards of the 10% lowest income households being cut by an average of 21% annually in 2020, more than five times as much as the cut to living standards for households in the top decile.
  • Women are hit harder than men and households headed by women such as lone parents and single female pensioners are hit hardest, both being about 20% worse-off on average in 2020
  • The full implementation by 2020 of Universal Credit is the main factor behind the deepening of the regressive cuts over this Parliament, as cuts to its already less generous rates and thresholds were not reversed in the 2015 Autumn Statement, unlike those to tax credits
  • Besides cuts to household incomes, the effect of central government cuts on school and social care budgets is the main factor behind the drop in living standards, mainly for the bottom half of the income distribution

View and download the full briefing here.


Written by
Jerome De Henau (Women’s Budget Group and Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Open University)
j.de-henau@open.ac.uk (07860556254)
Howard Reed (Women’s Budget Group and Director of Landman Economics)