Osborne’s mini-budget takes £1.7bn from women

Alex Hern runs through the latest issues the government is having with gender equality

Labour has hit out today at the extent to which George Osborne’s autumn statement will affect women, releasing evidence which shows that of the £2.37 billion raised by the freeze in working tax credits, near-freeze in public sector pay, and the removal of over-indexation in the child tax credit, nearly three quarters will come from women, as the chart below shows:

Amount raised in 2014/15 £ million £ million
for men
£ million
for women
Child tax credit: remove over indexation 1,020 275 1,075
Working tax credit: freeze 112 138 388
Public sector pay restraint 908 138 687
  Total 638 1,732
    27% 73%

Speaking on the figures, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said:

Time and again, this government is making women take the greatest strain, even though they still earn less and own less than men.

If you look at all the changes to direct tax, benefits, pay and pensions announced by the chancellor since the general election, of the £18.9 billion that the government is raising each year, £13.2 billion is coming from women and £5.7 billion from men. Women are being hit twice as hard.

The government is clearly shockingly out of touch with women’s lives. They have been warned repeatedly that their policies disproportionately affect women, not just by Labour, the Fawcett Society and women’s organisations across the country, but by their own internal memos and advice. Yet instead of responding and changing course, the chancellor just went back for more.

The government’s plans are deeply unfair on women. They clearly don’t understand the pressures many women are facing at the moment – especially women with children who will lose most of all.

The changes in the autumn statement are just the latest measures the government has introduced which have come under widespread condemnation for their disproportionate effect on women.

As we reported last week, the cuts to public sector pensions hurts over 700,000 women who would otherwise be exempt as some of the lowest paid workers:

This is because the government will measures workers’ income not by looking at their gross pay, but their full time equivalent earnings. In other words someone working half-time with a £14,000 slary is treated as earning £28,000.

Official figures (see Table 1) show 806,000 public sector part-time workers earn less than £15,000 but have full-time equivalent earnings greater than this threshold. Of these 732,000 or nine in ten (90.8 per cent) are women.

For many, this will mean as much as a 50 per cent increase in the amount they pay for their pension.

And when it comes to problems which can’t be quantified, the government isn’t much better.

As Daniel Elton asked in May:

Now the dust has settled on Ken Clarke’s 36 hours in ministerial purgatory – in constant political pain, but not understanding the cause or the cure – a question arises: Why is it that Conservatives have such a problem with gender equality and women’s issues in general?

1) David Willetts: “Feminism trumps egalitarianism

2) David Cameron: ‘Calm down dear’

3) Nadine Dorries: “Girls – just say no”

4) Ken Clarke: “Classic rape”

Although each of the episodes can be explained away by giving the benefit of the doubt, a simpler reading would be that David Cameron’s ‘detoxification’ project – so successful on issues like race, sexuality and the environment – took a pass on gender issues.

All of those toxic flourishes were “merely” rhetorical, however. Now that the government has moved to hitting women in the pockets, as well as just with words, it remains to be seen if detoxification even remains possible.

See also:

The coalition continues its ‘women problem’ by taking away our pensionsLiz Snape, November 30th 2011

Two weeks after ‘fixing’ it, Cameron creates a new “women problem”Alex Hern, October 17th 2011

Clegg talks the talk on equality – but seat cull will make things worseShamik Das, September 19th 2011

Cameron, Clarke, Dorries, Willetts… The Tories keep screwing up on gender equalityDaniel Elton, May 22nd 2011

Interviewer: “Rape is rape, with respect”; Ken Clarke: “No it’s not”Shamik Das, May 18th 2011

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