As always, poor and vulnerable women bear the brunt of austerity | Frances Ryan

Photo of As always, poor and vulnerable women bear the brunt of austerity | Frances Ryan

The next chapter of austerity is upon us, and the gender inequality within it is shocking

That “austerity is a feminist issue” is now a well-used idiom does not mean it’s any less true. Look at the latest gender breakdown of cuts released this month and what’s striking is that nothing’s changing. According to Sarah Champion, the shadow equalities minister, 86% of the burden of austerity has fallen on women since 2010 – a figure that remains entirely static from last year. Inequality is business as usual: by 2020, a decade on from when austerity first began, men will still have borne just 14% of the total burden of “welfare” cuts.

This unequal impact isn’t just contained within the benefit system, but rather spreads to many of the choices the Conservatives are making. NHS and local government cuts of course affect men as well, but as women are a vast chunk of the public sector workforce, they are hurt most when public services are squeezed. Similarly, although it’s rarely talked about in such terms, the crisis in social care is in many ways gendered: it’s largely women who make up home care and agency staff – insecure, low-paid work – while it’s also women who are the bulk of family carers for disabled children and elderly parents. When a council cuts a care package, it’s largely wives, mothers, and daughters doing the unpaid labour to plug the gap.

As a new wave of child poverty approaches, it’s working-class mums who will be queuing in food banks

Related: Women bearing 86% of austerity burden, Commons figures reveal

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