A feminist analysis of neoliberalism and austerity policies in the UK

Date Posted: Thursday 25th April 2019

AusterityFeminist Economics

WBG Management Committee member Ruth Pearson has produced a feminist analysis of neoliberalism and austerity policies in the UK for the journal Soundings. In which she argues that women are increasingly treated as an expandable and costless resource that can absorb all the extra work that results from cuts to the resources that sustain life.

There is considerable debate on the defining features of neoliberal thought and practice. However, there does appear to be a consensus on the fact that it emphasises minimum state intervention and the extension of market relations into all aspects of economic activity. The resulting withdrawal of the state from responsibility for the economic security of its citizens clearly has an impact on social security and public services; and it also has the effect of transferring risk from the collective to the individual. And, given the ways in which markets and economic relations are gendered, it is women who are bearing the brunt of these policies.

UK governments since 2010 have translated the notion of reducing state intervention not only as deregulation, but also as the elimination of the notional annual budget deficit, and a reduction of the accumulated debt-to-GDP ratio. This is their justification for the draconian austerity measures they have introduced. However, the government’s enthusiasm for pursuing these targets by cutting public expenditure rather than increasing tax and other government revenues reveals the neoliberal ideology behind these policies.

This article demonstrates that the ways in which these fiscal targets have been designed and implemented have disproportionately affected women, particularly low-income and BAME women. It also makes the case for investment in the social infrastructure as an engine of sustainable economic growth, and argues against a focus solely on investment in physical infrastructure and the creation of paid employment.

You can read the article in full, for free, via the Soundings website, or you view and download the article here.

Ruth Pearson is Emeritus Professor of International Development at the University of Leeds, development economist and founder scholar and activist in the field of Gender and Development and Associate Editor for Gender and Development.