WBG Response to HM Treasury’’s Pre-Budget Report 2006

Date Posted: Saturday 17th February 2007

Pre-Budget 2006

Budget

You can read our full Response to Pre-Budget Report 2006 here.


 

Overview

The WBG welcomes many aspects of the Pre-Budget Report, especially the proposals on tackling child poverty; the extension of opportunities to access skills and training, and of Sure Start and the payment of Child Benefit to pregnant women.

The increased enforcement of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) will be of particular benefit to women, who are more likely to be working in low paid, non unionised, insecure employment. Disadvantaged groups such as ethnic minority, disabled and migrant women will benefit in particular, being less able than most to negotiate the legal minimum wage.

However, we are disappointed by the limited evidence of gender analysis throughout the report. References are limited to a few points in the Report: for example, that 90% of lone parents are women; 70% of those who benefit from the NMW are women; many of those poor enough to claim pensions credit are women; and carers, and specifically women, are disadvantaged by the current pensions system. Despite these acknowledgements, however, the gender perspective is not consistently apparent. The Report lists under future challenges the specific problems of older people; children; youth, and the disabled, but is silent on gender. Para 5.28 sets out the disability duty and its role in promoting fairness for the disabled; but the Report is silent on the Gender Equality Duty.

The gendered economy is a key driver of women’s inequality and of the poor productivity of the UK: women are concentrated in part-time and low paid sectors and are often overqualified for the jobs they do. Women’s attachment to the labour force is weakened by the caring responsibilities for children, the sick, and the elderly, which they still, disproportionately, shoulder. When they try to return to paid work, they find it hard to update their skills or obtain jobs that reflect their qualifications. This in turn drives the UK‘s gender pay gap- one of the highest in the EU- and therefore gendered poverty across the life cycle, with its well-established impact on child poverty, and subsequently on gendered investment in pensions.

While we are applaud the Report’s support for the recommendations of the Women and Work Commission, we would like to see more explicit analysis in the Budget itself of the effect on women of its key proposals. For example, it is unclear at first sight whether planned increases to the NMW are above the rate of inflation, and will therefore lift the lowest paid out of poverty. The many references to the Leitch report do not clearly set out how its recommendations will help women improve their skills (these being a partial explanation for the gender pay gap). And the Regional Development Agencies. role in leading economy growth in the regions (para 3.9) is rarely clearly focused on women.

The Comprehensive Spending Review (Chapter 6) represents a golden opportunity to allocate spending to tackling women’s disadvantage but there is no mention of this as a specific objective. Indeed, the only reference to a gender gap in the whole report is (para 6.71) a reference to boys falling behind girls in GCSE passes. The reference in para 6.9 to Government work on how to take forward key crosscutting issues fails to mention the most significant crosscutting cause of women’s disadvantage, namely violence. The British Crime Survey shows that around half of all women will suffer some form of violence in their lifetime, be it domestic violence, stalking, rape, or sexual assault. Domestic violence is the most common cause of women’s morbidity between the ages of 19 and 44, worldwide. It is the lack of a cross cutting approach, underpinned by sensible CSR principles, that has led to a prostitution strategy being launched without a budget line; to the closure of rape crisis centres across the UK, so that now, for example, none operates anywhere in Northern Ireland or Wales for lack of funding, and others in England provide limited services – such as between 2 and 4 on a Thursday; and to the lack of ongoing additional funding for a new network of Domestic Violence /Sexual Violence Advocates launched in 2006. Similarly, references in the Report to Transport fail to recognise its gendered structure, with women using public transport far more than men, but with the lion’s share of public investment and subsidy going to support private transport, and public transport links being designed to meet the needs of men rather than women.

Recommendations:

1) That gender impact analysis is undertaken on the budget more broadly, on the CSR, and on specific initiatives such as transport, skills, RDA policies, and the forthcoming long-term strategy on financial capability.

2) The WBG recommend that tackling violence against women is created as a key cross cutting strategy under the CSR.

 


You can read our full Response to Pre-Budget Report 2006 here.