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UK/ How the Budget will affect Women

KIRSTY ALLAN discusses the new budget for the UK revealed by Cancellor George Osbourne and how many measures included in it are setbacks for women, particularly affected by the austerity.

Dorothea Lange photo, Migrant Mother Dorothea Lange photo, Migrant Mother

Without even mentioning them, the Chancellor’s budget will have an enormous impact on the lives of women up and down the country. Paradoxically, some seemingly positive measures announced in the budget are likely to have negative consequences for certain groups of women. For instance, the Chancellor announced that the income tax threshold will increase from April 2013 to £9,205, a rise of £1,100 from the current rate. This will have a wider impact on low earners and will be of specific help to women as many more of them earn lower salaries than men. However, this will still fail to provide any help to those people, of whom 73% are women, lacking employment or already earning under the threshold.

The change to the child benefit withdrawal will leave an extra 75,000 families with a continuing entitlement and now, only those households with an income of over £60,000 will have the benefit removed entirely, whereas households with an income of £50,000 will have the benefit withdrawn incrementally in line with rises in income. Again, this is a welcome measure for women in the squeezed middle but will provide little comfort to those whose income remains steadfastly lower than £50,000 whose benefits will not change.  The Chancellor also discussed the potential need for a further £10 billion cut to the welfare budget by 2016, a factor that is more likely to disproportionately target women due to the fact that benefits routinely make up 20% of a women’s income in comparison to 10% of men’s.   

These measures announced in the budget are likely to exacerbate further the already dire situation of many women. Over the past couple of years women have been particularly badly hit by the coalition cuts in this time of austerity. According to the analysis carried out by the Women’s Budget Group, women currently shoulder 72% of the cuts that were put into place after the 2010 budget. Female unemployment is currently at a staggering 25 year high of 1.12 million, rising at double the rate of male unemployment. The public sector cuts that have been put in place and the subsequent redundancies have affected women disproportionately hard on the basis that 64% of the public sector is made up of women, a higher proportion than in any other part of the economy. This has meant that, for those women still employed by the public sector, the pay freeze has been a further blow to the bank balance.