Women and the Spending Review

Date Posted: Thursday 29th August 2019

August 2019

AusterityBudgetSpending Review
A briefing from the UK Women’s Budget Group on the key policy priorities for the upcoming Spending Review from the Women and Equalities sector. Updated in August 2019 ahead of the Spending Review in September 2019. 

View and download the updated briefing here.

The Chancellor has promised that ‘austerity is coming to an end’. The 2019 Spending review is a significant test of what that promise will mean in real terms, particularly for women who have borne the brunt of austerity policies since 2010.

Women have been disproportionately impacted by changes to taxes, benefits and public spending, with BAME women and disabled women hardest hit.[1] This is the result of structural inequalities which mean women earn less, own less and have more responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work. [2]

Some of the key policy areas affecting women are:

  • Public services, including health, education and care services, which are under increasing strain after two previous rounds of spending reductions. Women are more likely than men to need public services, more likely to work in the public sector and more likely to have to increase their unpaid work when services are cut.
  • The majority of public services are provided by local councils, but over the past 8 years local councils have seen a reduction of up to 49% in their central government funding. Women and children bear the brunt of these cuts as they are more likely to work for councils and to need a range of council provided services, including social care, transport and housing, directly for themselves or indirectly for others for whom they care. These services are vital in affording women the opportunity to participate fully in the economy.
  • Social care is widely recognised to be in crisis. The majority of the care workforce, paid and unpaid, are women and the majority of those in need of care are women.
  • Cuts to social security since 2010 will have cost £39 billion per year by 2021. These cuts affect women more than men because of their generally lower incomes and greater caring responsibilities.
  • Austerity measures have reduced funding available for women’s organisations. At the same time cuts to statutory services and social security have increased the demand on the voluntary sector.

The Spending Review presents a critical opportunity for the Government to reverse its disastrous austerity programme. This briefing will address some of the key policy issues affecting women and highlights changes which we would like to see in the 2019 Spending Review. It starts with some over-arching issues before going on to discuss policy issues in more detail.

Emma Williams, WBG