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Women's equality: clock is turning back as cuts bite, says Fawcett Society

(102 Posts)
ttosca Fri 18-Nov-11 11:24:51

Life-raft policies must be drawn up to counter worst threat 'in living memory' to women's hard-won rights, says charity

Women's financial security and human rights are under attack on a scale not seen in "living memory" due to the coalition's austerity measures, according to a report released today.

Backed by more than 20 charities, unions and academics, the report by the Fawcett Society shows how the cuts are pushing women out of the workforce, driving down their income and undermining hard-won access to justice and protection from violence.

The report, A Life Raft for Women's Equality, offers key policy recommendations to reverse the impact the cuts will have on women's jobs, benefits and key services as state services are withdrawn.

The report is published on the same day that the home secretary, Theresa May – who is also minister for women and equalities – outlines the government's approach to women and the economy.

May will announce an ambitious plan to recruit and train 5,000 volunteer business mentors to help women who want to start or grow their own businesses.

"Business people tell us that they want to take advice from other business people. So the business mentors will be experienced individuals who can provide tailored advice and support. They will be a huge help to women entrepreneurs," May is to say.

Anna Bird, acting chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: "Our report identifies a series of targeted and achievable policy measures that could be adopted by, or at, the 2012 budget, which together offer a life raft for women's equality – and never has the need been so great.

"Women have not faced a greater threat to their financial security and rights in living memory. Decades of steady, albeit slow, progress on equality is being dismantled, as cuts to women's jobs and the benefits and services they rely on, turn back time on women's equality."

The number of women out of work is at a 23-year high, with cutbacks in the public sector hitting women particularly hard: two-thirds of the 130,000 jobs lost in local authorities since the first quarter of 2010 were held by women.

"Women up and down the country are experiencing greater hardship. For those families affected, the cuts to women's jobs, services and benefits will represent a personal loss," said Bird. "But we must add to this the cost to wider society as women's opportunities are scaled back.

"Fewer women working, a widening gap in pay between women and men, entrenchment of outdated gender roles at work and at home, and women being forced into a position where they must increasingly rely on a main breadwinner or the state for financial subsidy – this is the picture that emerges when the many policies of economic austerity are stitched together."

The report calls on the government to restore support for childcare costs for low-income families to the level before April 2011. This, says Bird, would "help ensure paid employment makes financial sense for the many low-income women who've found they are better off not working".

Another recommendation is ring-fencing funds for Sure Start centres. "This would further protect women's access to employment and shore up the other vital benefits these centres offer thousands of families," said Bird.

The society calls on the coalition to stop local authorities from treating violence against women services as a soft touch for cuts. "We need to ensure some of the most vulnerable women in the UK have access to the support they need," said Bird.

Signatories to the report include Eaves Housing for Women, the End Violence Against Women coalition, Unison, Child Poverty Action Group, Daycare Trust, White Ribbon Campaign UK, and Rape Crisis.

"We need urgent action to stop women being ground down by the government's devastating cuts," said Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary. "Women's jobs and pensions are under serious attack. They are being hit hard by unemployment, the rising cost of living and cuts to benefits and services to young people."

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, agreed. "Child poverty and the incomes and services women are able to access are intrinsically linked. The vast majority of child benefit is received by women, whether as the main carer in a couple, or as a single parent.

"It is hugely unfair that such a large burden of the government's cuts should be falling on the shoulders of women and children, and it would be profoundly wrong if these unfair cuts to child benefit became permanent."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Fairness is facing up to the reality of the financial situation we are in and not leaving our children to pick up the bill. This government is protecting services for the most vulnerable and focusing resources where they are most needed and most effective.

"We are taking 1.1 million of the lowest-paid workers – most of whom are women – out of income tax altogether, introducing flexible parental leave and extending flexible working, and taking action to reduce the gender pay gap."

• This article was amended on 4 November 2011. It originally stated that extra money was being made available by the government for the business mentoring scheme. This has been corrected.

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:35:20

Surely we want time with our children, when has that become a bad thing .

I find it bordering ridiculous that I spend my life working so hard to help other people's children while my own child would get ignored if it wasn't for my partner.

nailak Sat 19-Nov-11 14:41:23

Sure start centres also provide Esol lessons, health drives, benefit, housing and career advice, fb writing workshops etc, at a place which is easily accessible, and welcoming to.the most vulnerable women, many also support childmindeers and act as a.first stop shop.for those needing a childminder, or help filling in neg2 forms etc, which obviously supports return to

To me and my community surestart is invaluable.

Also twinkly my mum is a teacher and I felt the same.

bemybebe Sat 19-Nov-11 14:46:09

"Also twinkly my mum is a teacher and I felt the same."
My mum was an engineer and I felt the same. And she did not even get the guaranteed time off during our school holidays, dbro and I were shipped over various grandmums for the duration.

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:46:49

I know changes to paternity leave are ahead but the greatest thing that would help me would be an ability for me to transfer my maternity leave to dp.

I am the main wage earner and therefore we cannot afford for my wage to drop at all. So my maternity leave will have to be minimal. It would suit us better if do could take the leave .

edam Sat 19-Nov-11 14:47:58

If you want to know how much this government despises women, just look at the legal aid cuts. There's complete intransigence over the decision to abolish legal aid for domestic violence except in all but a tiny number of cases, after the victim has jumped through numerous hoops. They won't even acknowledge there is anything to discuss, let alone discuss it.

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:49:04

I am not trying to claim it is just a teacher thing . I have often said on here that teaching is not the hardest job in the world and why would I want to claim that.

But something has gone very wrong in society, we are working more and more and seeking our children less and less. We are storing up problems for the future IMO.

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:52:19

Good point bemybabe I can remember as as child that although my parents did not work the long hours in the evening that I do , I spent all the holidays in my house on my own , cooking and running the home from about 9 I think.

My dd does not have to do that and she is lucky. At the end if each summer holiday she is so much happier and well behaved and often begs me to not go back to work.

bemybebe Sat 19-Nov-11 14:56:59

I remember begging my dm to not go back to work when I was little (below 7y0). I really hated it. However, the culture of my family and circle of our friends did not allow for her to choose to be sahm, if it did I think she would. I was happy to work really heard in my 20s and 30s, but now that I am needed at home I am happy to take 80% hit on the household income and stay at home instead...

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 14:57:37

'I find it bordering ridiculous that I spend my life working so hard to help other people's children while my own child would get ignored if it wasn't for my partner.'

So time with you is more valuable than time spent with your partner? hmm

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 14:59:19

'we are working more and more and seeking our children less and less'

That's nonsense.
Peopel worked all the hours God sent until recently.
The concept of leisure for anyone but the arostocracy is largely a 20/21C construct.

If teaching so family unfriendly as you claim, one wonders why it is crammed with women.

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 15:01:53

'Sure start centres also provide... fb writing workshops.'

Is that a joke?
If so, all the more reason to close them down.

bemybebe Sat 19-Nov-11 15:03:34

I was hmm also moondog... bizarre idea.

smallwhitecat Sat 19-Nov-11 15:12:24

Message withdrawn

breadandbutterfly Sat 19-Nov-11 15:27:54

You're not a historian, are you, moondog?

On the contrary, with a brief blip in the 19th century, people certainly did not work every hour of every day. Leisure did not exist as a concept BECAUSE full-time work as we have now did not exist either, so there was no artificial division. Pre the Industrial Revolution, everyone worked at or near where they lived, with families close by. The families worked together and helped - children as well as adults. Work was seasonal and influenced by daylight hours and harvest etc calendars - people didn't work till late all year round, because they would have been working in the dark, in bare fields, had they tried to do so.

The modern idea of both parents working minimum 9-5 in a soul-destroying job, away from their loved ones, and children separated at school for long hours is actually much more restrictive than most of human history - urbanisation and the growth of factories etc allowed this kind of work to begin. It is not a given.

smallwhitecat Sat 19-Nov-11 15:42:01

Message withdrawn

ttosca Sat 19-Nov-11 15:53:29

breadandbutterlfy is absolutely right. Working a soul-destroying 7am-7pm job is a historical anomaly.

Furthermore, it's not just pre-industrial society. For the majority of the 20th Century, thanks in large part to social and political struggles of the working class, households could support themselves on one income - including bringing up kids.

While of course it is great that women now have the choice to enter the workforce and start potentially earning enough to live independently and earn good money, thanks largely to neo-liberal economic policies, this has now become a necessity rather than choice.

That is to say, households now require to working people to bring up children with a reasonable standard of living. This was not always the case.

ttosca Sat 19-Nov-11 15:59:50


You have some sort of twisted logic. The Fawcett society is not 'accepting the status quo' in the sense that is promoting women to stay in public sector jobs, or being paid less, or anything else of the sort.

They are simply recognizing the facts as they are: women have it harder in the workplace than men. They are paid less on average for the same job, fill more lower-paid positions, and are the recipients of more sexual harassment and discrimination at work.

Denying that this is the case isn't going to help women. You can't 'magic' women in to better conditions by sticking your head in the sand and deny that there are problems.

Promoting the welfare of women, who are currently at a disadvantage, is the best way of brining about equality and from removing them from being second-class workers in society.

That's why it's both perfectly valid and reasonable to point out the way the austerity cuts will adversely affect women. It will exacerbate the conditions of a set of people who are already at a disadvantage. If you want to help women, help give them opportunities, don't make it even harder for them to attain good jobs and equality in the workforce.

smallwhitecat Sat 19-Nov-11 16:07:29

Message withdrawn

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 16:33:24

No. not a historian by profession but having studied it at degree level I have a reasonable grasp of it.
Sadly your utopian concept of a house filled with people frolicking with the kiddies in between churning butter and weaving willow baskets does not stand .
Spend any time in developing countries as I do and you will indeed see that the idea of leisure time devoted to enjoying your children is a myth.

'The modern idea of both parents working minimum 9-5 in a soul-destroying job, away from their loved ones, and children separated at school for long hours is actually much more restrictive than most of human history - urbanisation and the growth of factories etc allowed this kind of work to begin.'

Driving to work in a warm car, living in a warm building. Yes, it's sheer misery isn't it.
Long hours in school.
A prison sentence, isn't it?

Noone forces anyone into these so called 'soul destroying' jobs.
What numpties in esablishments like the FC want is a situation where women are cushioned and cossetted and treated like delicate little things who need constant state inteference.

Who pays these people to come up with this tripe?

nailak Sat 19-Nov-11 16:57:25

i meant cv, sorry autocorrect turned it in to fb hmm

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 17:04:21

I do not do a soul destroying job, on the contrary it is an utter joy to spend a day with young people passing on a subject I love.

I entered teaching about 10 years ago and the workload was significantly less.

I was discussing this with dp the other day who suspects that he works as hard now as a part time worker as he was in a full time position when he started in his current field. The full timers are often firing off emails at 6am and still doing so at midnight .They are also working all weekend . Some of this is driven by a fear of being made redundant, many employers are exploiting this fear.

Moondog I never said time between my dd and dp was not important , in fact one of the consequences of me working so hard is that he can work part time and dd almost has him on tap. However dd also needs regular time with me, especially as I am her only biological parent.

bemybebe Sat 19-Nov-11 17:14:17

nailak this was hilarious then!!

GeekLove Sat 19-Nov-11 18:13:43

9-3 as a teacher!?! Oh moondog don't make me laugh. I have never met a tea her who did not start the day after 8.30 or leave before 5. And there is the marking and lesson preparation to be done in one's own time.

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 18:58:33

I'm talking about the kids, Geek.
B&B was moaning about the 'long hours' in school.

breadandbutterfly Sat 19-Nov-11 22:52:41

No, moondog, I was trying to point out the numerous errors in your statement that:

"'we are working more and more and seeking our children less and less'

That's nonsense.
Peopel worked all the hours God sent until recently.
The concept of leisure for anyone but the arostocracy is largely a 20/21C construct. "

When in fact, recent history is very unusual in its separation of parents and children, and of work being done primarily away from the home.

And no, before you try trolling on this one, I am not suggesting that children being at school is a bad thing - but I am certainly very much in agreement with ttosca that the current situation of both parents being required to work away from the home for extremely long hours and thus only able to have relatively very little time with their children is a very recent historical construct indeed - in my mother's generation, not that long ago, it was assumed that women would stay at home to look after their children and this was the norm when I was growing up. So kids had quality time with at least one parent.

Indeed, re your point about why women would choose to be teachers - don't forget that in my mother's day, women with children were forbidden to be teachers at all. So clearly, society has made strides forwards in terms of choice for women, on the one hand, to enter these jobs. But you must not forget that on the other hand it has also made large strides backwards, in that financial necessity (particularly rising house prices over the last decade or so) have made that 'choice' no longer a choice, but a necessity.

Where did you study history, by the way? And which periods did you focus on? Or was it all rather a long time ago, and you've conveniently forgotten it? smile

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