AWOL meeting report – Women and the Cuts

Posted on 12 February 2011 by

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I’m going to start using this blog for summaries of our meetings and possibly some random rants as and when they occur to me, and I hope other AWOLs will follow suit – if you want to be able to post here, just create a WordPress account, then drop an e-mail to the list or to awol@riseup.net and let us know your WordPress username so we can add you.

Monday’s meeting was on Women and the Cuts.  We covered the ways in which women are disproportionately affected by cuts in public spending (very long list), reasons for this and what we want to do about it.   We got into a brief analysis of capitalism and why cuts aren’t the way out of economic crisis but will in fact make it worse, and we decided to create a pamphlet, splitting our list into four categories: Education, Health and Social Care, Public Sector Employment and Benefits.  I’m putting the list up here so we can each begin to work on our sections.  The pamphlet will be distributed at all anti-cuts marches and also on the International Women’s Day march and events.

The idea of this is to raise a bit of awareness of just how disproportionately women are going to be affected by these cuts, and to encourage women and women’s groups to get involved in anti-cuts activism.

We also spoke about the intersection of gender with race and disability in relation to the cuts, and discussed actions that could build solidarity with other groups fighting the cuts on these fronts.

This is the list we came up with of ways in which women are disproportionately affected by cuts.  If we all post up any links to statistics and specific examples of effects of the cuts on women in the comments, these can feed into the pamphlet:

  • Cuts to admin work/public sector work – women make up the majority of workers in this sector.  There will be a pay freeze for public sector workers earning over £21,000.
  • Study and post-grad study – paying off loans is harder for women, more likely to have family commitments or be in low paid work.
  • Less work in education – another sector important for women’s employment.
  • Single parents will be disproportionately affected by university fees for their children, and most single parents are women.
  • Subjects that women are traditionally encouraged to study, the arts and humanities, are the courses that face the biggest cuts.  Existing prejudices mean it is still harder for women to get onto science and engineering courses, and there is little encouragement for women to take an interest in these subjects.
  • Cuts to public services, e.g. libraries, that are predominantly used by women and employ women.
  • Scrapping of legal requirement for companies and institutions to provide flexible working hours will make work more difficult for parents with childcare responsibility, predominantly women.
  • Child benefit frozen for three years and child tax credit to be removed after 2013.
  • Lone parents will be transferred to JSA when child is age 5, but there will be less work available, especially work that is compatible with child care responsibilities.
  • This all adds up to even greater chances of women remaining unemployed, and when unemployed over a year, housing benefit entitlement will be reduced.
  • More women than men will be affected by complex changes in entitlement to benefits due to adult children moving in and out of home.
  • Women disproportionately suffer mental health difficulties.  Cuts to these benefits will make them even harder to claim than they already are.
  • Cuts to disability benefit mean that women with disabilities will be doubly affected by the expectation that they should find work (with no suitable work existing).
  • Cuts to disability benefits will also affect unpaid carers, who are predominantly women.
  • Outsourcing of paid care work will also disproportionately affect women.
  • Pay freeze for public sector workers
  • Many of the public services most affected and facing closure include essential women’s services, such as domestic violence services, women’s refuges, anti-trafficking initiatives.
  • The cutting of legal aid will leave many women unable to find representation, especially in cases that place them in opposition to a higher earning partner (e.g. divorce and custody).

The UK Women’s Budget Group report also notes these effects:

  • Women’s reduced income will affect their bargaining power in household decisions.
  • Gender inequality is masked when income is measured on a household basis.
  • Women’s earning is still lower than men’s.
  • Women are more likely to work part time.
  • Women do more unpaid work than men.
  • Of the £8 billion to be raised by budget changes, £5.8 billion will be paid by women.
  • A larger proportion of women’s income is made up of benefits.
  • More women don’t earn enough to benefit from income tax changes.
  • Women are more often carers.
  • 48% of BME women live in lower income households.
  • Cuts in public services and NHS – women use these more intensively than men.
  • Complexity of tax rules will mean more stress.

Links to other anti-cuts groups in Liverpool:

Merseyside Women Against the Cuts

MNAFC

UK Uncut – lists all campaigns by region

False Economy, lists all orgs being cut by regions.

Any ideas or contributions to the pamphlet can be posted as comments here.

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