Poverty in the UK: the need for a gender perspective

Jun 30, 2015 | Analysis, Briefing Papers, Older publications

Gender is often invisible in debates about poverty. Talking about the risks of poverty for ‘workless households’, or the problems of ‘parenting in poverty’ conceals significant issues about women’s and men’s relationships to the family, the labour market and the welfare state.

Women make up a higher proportion of those in poverty. Before housing costs, 37 per cent of those in relative poverty were men, and 39 per cent were women (the rest being children); after housing costs, this was 35 versus 37 per cent [1].Single parents and single pensioners (the majority of whom are women) are particularly likely to live in poverty.

Large numbers of women are substantially economically dependent on their partners and families. This puts them at risk of poverty if the relationship breaks down and increases vulnerability to financial abuse.

The Women’s Budget Group has called for policies based on the principles of:

  • access to an adequate independent income for all, and
  • sharing caring and the costs of caring more equally, both within households and more widely.

In addition, instead of just thinking about the impact of a policy on a household at one point in time, we should consider its longer-term effects on individuals as well. And instead of just looking at the amounts of resources involved, we should examine the effects they may have on gender roles and relationships, both in private and in public.

For more information read WBG, (2015), Poverty in the UK: the need for a gender perspective, Women’s Budget Group London

This briefing paper was based on a report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Read the full report: Bennett, F and Daly, M (2014), Poverty through a Gender Lens: Evidence and Policy Review on Gender and Poverty, Report for Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford, Oxford

[1] DWP, (2014) Households below average income, Department for Work and Pensions, London available at ‘Households Below Average Income

Previous briefings and reports

October 2002 WBG Response to Department for Work and Pension’s 13th Households Below Average Income Report