This Tory-Lib Dem government is particularly clobbering women

by Sally Bercow

Women don’t matter to this government. This is not a sweeping, attention-grabbing, rhetorical assertion, but a shameful reality. The cold, hard truth is that women will bear the brunt of the cuts to benefits, jobs and services. The Tory-Lib Dem government’s policies will bring about a huge reduction in the standard of living and the financial independence of millions of women throughout the country.

As Yvette Cooper has highlighted time and again, the comprehensive spending review, combined with the measures announced in June’s “emergency” budget, mean that women will be clobbered much harder than men. Indeed, she went as far as to say “This is the worst attack on women in the entire history of the welfare state”.

In government, our party did much to advance the cause of women’s equality: increasing maternity pay, improving maternity rights, introducing the minimum wage, boosting women’s pensions, creating more flexible jobs and extending childcare and support. Doubtless, there was more we could (and should) have done – notably to close the gender pay gap – but nonetheless it is a record of which we can be proud. Now, however, the government’s policies and savage cuts to welfare benefits and public services will not only halt the progress made on gender equality but turn back the clock in the most frightening fashion.

Just look at the miserable fare dished up these last few months. The Tory-Liberal government has scrapped a string of benefits for mums with young children. Changes to working tax credits mean that some less well-off mums, working part time, will actually be better off giving up their jobs. Cuts to social care, reductions in support for childcare costs and a freeze for sure start services represent further evidence of this government’s callous disregard for the everyday lives of women, particularly the millions of women struggling to make ends meet on very modest means. What is more, moving beyond the cuts to family benefits, women suffer more from the cuts to housing benefit and pensions and gain less from the increases in the income tax allowances. As women make up more of the public sector workforce, they will shoulder the greatest burden of the public sector pay freeze and the estimated 600,000 job losses.

If proof were needed of the government’s indifference to the brutal impact of its policies, it lies in ministers’ failure to conduct a full gender impact assessment of the “emergency” budget. As the Fawcett society has pointed out, of the £8.1bn in savings raised by the budget, £5.7 bn (72%) is being borne by women. Only this week in Parliament, Peter Hain expressed astonishment that the Welsh secretary, Cheryl Gillan, did not appear to have considered the impact of the job losses on Welsh women (women make up 75% of the public sector workforce in Wales).

Not only are so many individual departmental policies hurting women disproportionately, but even the minister for women and equality herself cannot be relied on to mitigate the effects of her colleagues’ reactionary initiatives. Indeed, while I would like nothing more than to give Theresa May a sisterly high-five, the facts simply do not allow it. Instead, the government is watering down the implementation of the equality act, which the Labour government passed earlier this year. Only last month, they announced that the socio-economic duty provided for in the act will be dropped. No duty means no requirement for public bodies to assess the impact of their decisions on the most disadvantaged – which, no doubt, suits the government just fine. A week or two ago, Tories and Lib Dems also scrapped plans (in section 78 of the equality act) to require large companies to measure and publish details of the difference in pay between their male and female employees – a key step in the fight against women still being paid less than men for jobs of equal worth. Instead, the government is now merely asking companies to provide this information on a voluntary basis – which is, to say the least, breathtakingly naïve. Lynne Featherstone, now equalities minister, herself observed two years ago: “A voluntary audit system for private industry is hardly worth the paper it’s printed on”.

This Tory-Lib Dem government is clobbering women up and down the country. Labour must continue tirelessly to expose the fact and seek to limit its impact. But we need to go further and develop our own programme of far-reaching reform and positive action to secure gender equality. For, despite all that we achieved in government, there is much more that can be done on flexible working, on childcare and, not least, on pay. Standing up for women by fighting for a living wage and by closing the persistent gender pay gap must be top priorities.

Sally Bercow is a Labour activist and a freelance writer and broadcaster.

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4 Responses to “This Tory-Lib Dem government is particularly clobbering women”

  1. Twitter/I_Am_Ayse says:

    1) Most of the Administrative jobs will be removed from the public sector by 2015.

    2) Most of the administrators work for high powered people like CEO, Director Generals or Executive officers who either don’t know how to use a printer or point blank refuse to do the “mundane” jobs they see beneath them & more fitting of an Administrator.

    3) Lowest paid public sector jobs are for Administrators – between £16,000-£30,000).

    4) Most Administrators in the public sector don’t get end of bonuses (5% or 10% of monthly wages) because their achievements are considered “part of their job”.

    5) Most Administrators in the Public Sector are women.

    6) Alot of Administrators work 9-5 or 10-6 & some are on Flexi. If on Flexi they then tend to work until around 7pm an at least one night a week to make up for time

    7) Getting rid of those jobs means putting healthy, work-minded people on the dole-I thought this was what the ConDems wanted to avoid.

  2. Jonah says:

    “clobbering women” – what a disgraceful use of language.

    I agree there is an issue, but your use of language distracts from it.

  3. George C says:

    Rather a selective article. Does raising the personal allowance not disproportionately take part-time female earners out of tax? And I suspect the CGT increase – aimed at those who take their income as dividends – will disproportionately hit men.

  4. charlie says:

    just heard it is going to 8 POUND A GALLON IN THE SUMMER time to get rid of this useless goverment now before it is to late lets have a massive vote of no confidence this is the worst goverment since before the war

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