If we want to tackle poverty in Wales we have to talk about gender.
The latest Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Wales report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation ( JRF ) provides vital data on the nature of poverty in Wales.
A clear message from this report is that in-work poverty is on the rise and that central to this are low pay and part-time work. The gender implications of this cannot be ignored.
While the report from JRF considers the gender differences we believe that gender should be more central to poverty discussions.
Poverty is not gender neutral.
Evidence shows that the risks, causes and experiences of poverty are different for men and women, with women’s position in the home and the workplace being key factors in determining these differences ( University of Oxford, Poverty Through a Gender Lens, 2014 ~ Download as PDF ).
If this is not recognised anti-poverty strategies will fail to tackle the root causes of poverty for a large portion of society.
Women dominate in low paid, part time work. 80% of all part time jobs in Wales are held by women; 75% of these jobs are in administration, personal service, sales and elementary occupations such as cleaning.
The average earnings for these roles are under £8,000 per year ( WAVE Wales, Working Patterns in Wales, 2014 ).
Often, it is women’s employment situation that determines whether a household is living in poverty as their income is either a 2nd income or the only income. ( University of Oxford Poverty Through a Gender Lens, 2014 ~ Download as PDF ).
Even now in 2015, we cannot discuss women’s position in the workplace without talking about childcare.
The continued perception that women are carers first and earners second means that a lack of affordable, accessible childcare shapes women’s career choices.
This leads many to work below their potential in low paid, part time jobs which we know increases the likelihood of them living in poverty.
Welsh Government should be commended for their continued commitment to tackling poverty.
We believe that policies and programmes to reduce poverty levels can be strengthened by adopting a tailored approach to address the root causes of women’s poverty.
This should include:
- Tackling the perception that women are carer’s first and earners second.
- Ensuring that affordable and accessible childcare is available, regardless of income.
- Encouraging modern workplace practices, including part time and job sharing, at more senior levels, so that women are not forced to work below their potential.
- Making Wales a Living Wage nation.
Written by Natasha Davies, Chwarae Teg Policy Partner.