UK Budget Assessments
The Impact on Women of the Spending Review 2010
Date Posted: Wednesday 17th November 2010
2010 Spending Review
The Coalition’s Concept of Fairness Ignores Inequality between Men and Women
The WBG welcomes the emphasis that the Coalition has given in the Spending Review to fairness and social mobility. The extension of 15 hours free early education and care to all disadvantaged 2-3 year olds from 2012-13 is certainly to be applauded. However, the Coalition’s approach to fairness fails to acknowledge that men and women start from unequal positions, and that there are many barriers to social mobility other than lack of educational qualifications. Unequal employment opportunity and caring responsibilities are just two examples.
We also welcome the Treasury’s attempt to produce an Equalities Impact Assessment of its spending decisions, following its failure to comply with this legal requirement for the June Emergency Budget. But we find its Impact Assessment inadequate. The Treasury provides almost no quantitative data on how men and women will be affected by its decisions; and excludes most aspects of the Spending Review from its analysis, claiming either that there is no impact or that it is impossible to measure. The Treasury has massive resources and could have done better than this.
Since the Spending Review, the WBG has been conducting its own Gender Impact Assessment. We find that the record cuts to the public sector services and welfare budget announced in the Spending Review impact disproportionately on women’s incomes, jobs and 2 the public services they use. Viewed as a whole, together with the measures announced in the June 2010 Emergency Budget,1 the cuts represent an immense reduction in the standard of living and financial independence of millions of women, and a reversal in progress made towards gender equality.
The WBG’s analysis shows that:
- the groups that will suffer the greatest reduction in their standard of living due to cuts in public services are lone parents and single pensioners, the majority of whom are women;
- lone parents will lose services worth 18.5% and female singles pensioners services worth 12% of their respective incomes;
- overall single women will lose services worth 60% more than single men will lose as proportions of their respective incomes, and nearly three times those lost by couples.
- the cuts will lead to hundreds of thousands of women losing their job. 53% of the jobs in the public sector services that have not been protected from the cuts are held by women and the pay and conditions of employment of all public sectors workers, 65% of whom are women, are likely to deteriorate;
- cuts in welfare spending fall disproportionately on the finances of women. Child Benefit is paid almost 100% to women; while 53% of Housing Benefit claimants are single women. Both benefits have been cut significantly in real terms and eligibility has been tightened.
The WBG is concerned about role the Coalition foresees for women in the future. The Coalition’s stated intention is to simplify the welfare system, increase incentives to work, and reduce ‘dependency’ on the state. But its plans will have the opposite affect for many women, and do not address the barriers to women’s employment arising from their caring responsibilities.
Indeed, women’s caring responsibilities will increase as women are likely to be the ones to fill the gaps where public services have been cut. It seems the Coalition is happy to restore an outdated ‘male breadwinner, dependent female carer’ model of family life that fits neither with women’s aspirations nor today’s financial necessities. These plans reveal gendered assumptions based on women being available to work unpaid for the Coalition’s Big Society.
The WBG calls on the Coalition to:
- Stop the unfair attack on women’s jobs, incomes and services;
- Deliver a Gender Impact Assessment that provides a full qualitative and quantitative analysis of the gendered effects of the Spending Review;
- Assess the cumulative impact across government departments and the combined impact of all the measures in the Emergency Budget and the Spending Review for the period to 2014/15;
- Take action now to mitigate the unfair burden of the Coalition’s Budget and Spending Review on women. For example:
- reverse the decision to cap Housing Benefit,
- invest more in Child Tax Credit,
- reinstate the childcare component of the Working Tax Credit to 80%,
- commit now to maintaining universal Child Benefit for all women.