This week ( 27 Jan 2015 ) Assembly Members will discuss austerity as part of a debate, tabled by Plaid Cymru, which calls for an end to austerity politics.
The debate is sure to be lively with clear political divisions over the benefit and cost of austerity in the UK and in Wales.
Discussion of austerity can often fail to consider the varying degree that policies aimed at reducing the deficit affect different groups. Since 2010 and the start of the austerity agenda many groups, Chwarae Teg included, have warned of the disproportionate impact that these policies are having on women.
The Fawcett Society have termed this “the triple jeopardy” – women are being hit hardest by cuts to public sector jobs and wages, hit hardest by cuts to public services and benefits and are likely to be left to fill the gaps where services are withdrawn.
The cost of this triple jeopardy can be very high. It has been estimated that since 2010 the public sector has lost 631,000 jobs across the UK ( GMB ) and that with current budget plans by 2019 there could be a further 1m job losses ( IFS ).
As a region of the UK with the highest percentage of the workforce in the public sector the impact of these job losses in Wales could be significant.
Given that women make up the majority of the public sector workforce it is fair to say that they will likely feel the brunt of further cuts in this area. While the private sector is seeing jobs created this may not be the cure all that some purport it to be.
There is a significant difference in the average pay that women in the public and private sectors receive, with those in the public sector being paid 2.2% – 3.1% more ( ONS ).
Women in the private sector are also less likely to be in high skilled jobs, 16% compared to 42% ( ONS ).
Wales is being particularly hard hit by welfare reform.
Cuts to public services and benefits are also affecting women to a greater extent, with some estimating that 74% of the savings being made through welfare reform is coming directly from women’s pockets ( Fawcett Society ).
Wales is being particularly hard hit by welfare reform changes and as services such as public transport and childcare feel the pinch women could find themselves facing additional barriers to the workplace and having to fill the gaps where services are cut.
The danger of this triple jeopardy is that we could inadvertently be pushing women further from the labour market. Since 2006 the UK has fallen from 9th to 26th in the world for gender equality. We cannot afford to slip any further.
We welcome the debate this week as it’s important that the issue of austerity is discussed in an open and frank manner. It is vital however, that the disproportionate impact of these policies on women is a key feature of these discussions.
Gender inequality remains a feature of life in Wales and the UK. To make this a thing of the past we must ensure that the policies of both the UK and Welsh Governments do not disadvantage women and that action is taken to ensure women are not left to pay the price for austerity.
By Natasha Davies. Twitter: @daviesna2.