General Election 2019: Towards an Economy which Works for Women

Date Posted: Wednesday 30th October 2019

The 2019 general election is an opportunity for all political parties and candidates to commit to a more gender-equal future for all women in the UK. This is the Women’s Budget Group’s detailed set of recommendations on public services, social security, care, tax, trade and more. These recommendations would help build an economy which works for all women and girls including those further marginalised by race, ethnicity, class, ability and other identities. 

You can read ‘Towards an Economy which Works for Women and Girls’ here. 

Key points: 

The next government should commit to building public services which work for women by:

  • Including funding for public services within its definition of investment. Our health, care and education systems make up our social infrastructure which, like physical infrastructure, require spending now for social and/or economic benefits in the future. Spending on services that lead to long term improvements in people’s health, education and well-being are therefore investments in our social infrastructure.
  • Ensuring that all reforms to locally and centrally funded services undergo comprehensive equality impact assessments to ensure they do not harm to women and other groups.
  • Restoring central government funding to local government to a level which enables councils to meet their statutory obligations and provide the preventative, non-statutory services which are vital to the wellbeing of women, children and those in need of care.
  • Ending outsourcing and redundancies in local authorities and equip local government to return local services ‘in house’ creating worthwhile jobs and opportunities.

The next government should commit to a health and social care system which works for those who need it and those who do unpaid and paid work in it by:

  • Recognising that spending on health and social care is an investment in social infrastructure, whose importance to society and return on investment should be evaluated like that of physical infrastructure.
  • Establishing a National Care Service that provides care as well as provision for independent living for disabled people; free at the point of delivery and integrated with the NHS and funded at the national level to avoid the entrenchment of regional inequalities.
  • Giving priority to investment in public health and community-based care for local governments.
  • Investing in substantial and longstanding training, career development and pay progression for both health and social care workers so they have equal standing and a regulatory body.

The next government should promote sharing of care between women and men by:

  • Investing in free universal childcare for all children
  • Ensuring childcare workers have decent pay, training and a career structure
  • Reforming parental leave so that each partner gets a dedicated period of leave on a non- transferable individual basis. Leave should be paid at an increased statutory rate for all parents including precarious workers

The next government should reform the education system by:

  • Ending cuts to education and reinvest in all schools and further education institutions.
  • Considering cuts to education as regressive in redistributing women’s unpaid care and addressing the gender pay gap because increased workloads fall disproportionately on women who make up the majority of teachers and carers of school-age children.
  • Reviewing the pay of teachers, along with other public sector workers, to ensure it rises in line with inflation and compensates for losses since 2010.
  • Ensuring all forms of state education are properly funded.
  • Tackling occupational segregation and, in turn, unequal pay in apprenticeships and training to ensure that this investment does not reproduce the gender division of labour.

The next government should reform the housing system to work for women and their families by:

  • Investing in social housing to ensure an effective housing safety net.
  • Updating local housing allowance rates to reflect real rents and uprated in line with inflation every year.
  • Ensuring local authorities and housing associations recognise links between homelessness and domestic abuse for women and provide women-only accommodation including refuges, homelessness shelters and supported accommodation.
  • End, ‘vulnerability testing’ for domestic abuse victims/survivors.

The next government should improve public transport by:

  • Reinvesting in public transport, including local bus services on which women are more likely to rely on as part of reinvesting in local government.
  • Ending cuts to fuel duty to create a more equitable and green tax system which does not discriminate against women and helps fight the climate emergency.

The next government should reform the justice system so that it works for women by:

  • Reversing funding cuts to legal aid and reviewing its eligibility requirements and regulations.
  • Significantly reducing the number of short-term custodial sentences for women by opening women’s community centres delivering holistic, women-centred, services including support for the major drivers of women’s offending: mental health, housing, employment, substance abuse, and domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
  • Take all measures necessary to prevent women’s offending including by tackling violence against women and girls and ensuring all victims’/survivors’ have the support they need.

The next government should address the causes and consequences of violence against women and girls (VAWG) by:

  • Providing needs-based and sustainable funding for all victims’/survivors’ services and preventative interventions that ensure all women and girls have the support they need, including ringfenced funds for BAME and migrant-specific services.
  • Equipping all public services (police, hospital, job centres etc.) toensure all frontline staff make trained enquiries about VAWG, responding appropriately to take into account trauma and can provide pathways to support.
  • Reversing cuts to central local government funding for VAWG and other public services needed by women and, as explained below, halt the roll out of Universal Credit unless the ways in which it can facilitate financial abuse are tackled.
  • Introducing a Domestic Abuse Bill which ratifies the Istanbul Convention, ensuring there is 1 shelter placed per 10,000 inhabitant, and applies to all women including migrant women and Northern Irish women. Abolishing the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) policy.
  • Introducing well-designed Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in all schools as a crucial preventative measure.

The next government should reform the social security system by:

  • Pausing the roll out of Universal Credit for a comprehensive review of its impact and make necessary changes to build a system that ensures individual incomes, is less reliant on conditionality and means testing and is respectful rather than punitive.

In the short-term government should:

  • Abolish the two-child limit
  • Improve the gains to employment for second earners, especially those with childcare costs, the majority of whom are women
  • End the five-week wait
  • Introduce separate payments by default to reduce the risk of financial abuse
  • Address punitive sanctions and conditionality
  • Assess the impact of all future reforms on women and other equality groups

The next government should ensure sustainable funding for social protection by:

  • Calculating the net costs of public services and social security systems in the longer run by taking account of the extent to which people are enabled to enter the labour market, and, through becoming heathier and more productive, better able to contribute to and benefit from society.
  • Not raising tax thresholds and introducing a more progressive system of income tax, in which all income, including capital gains, is taxed in the same way.
  • Reversing planned decreases to corporation taxes which fuel a race to the bottom, overwhelmingly benefit men and take away from public revenue.
  • Considering introducing taxes on wealth and financial transactions.
  • Increasing fuel duty, and possibly other green taxes, while giving financial support to those who. have exceptionally high costs in reducing their environmental footprint.
  • Reviewing the tax and social protection systems together.
  • Reducing tax allowances to reduce the scope for tax avoidance and clamping down on tax evasion.

The next government should govern with mind to gender equality by:

  • Taking action on equal pay at levels of the economy by making action plans mandatory for larger organisations as well as extending reporting to smaller organisations, requiring intersectional data to be collected and making it easier to bring a case of unequal pay by reinstating legal aid.
  • Working holistically across departments to avoid short-term decision to make cuts in one department which produce need for emergency intervention in another.
  • Carrying out and publishing comprehensive equality impact assessments of all policy which take account of the impact across a life course, on individuals as well as households and take a cumulative and intersectional approach.

The next government can work towards a trade system which works for all women by:

  • Publishing a comprehensive equality impact assessment of Brexit.
  • Averting ‘no deal’ at all costs and, putting in place measures to stop women and marginalised groups absorbing the impact of Brexit.
  • Analysing the gendered impact of all future trade agreements.
  • Ensuring social protections cannot be rolled back under future trade deals.’
  • Continue to commit to 0.7% of GDP on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA.)
  • Reverse cuts to Department of International Development (DFID) and corporation tax to halt the ‘race to the bottom.’

You can read ‘Towards an Economy which Works for Women and Girls’ here.