(English) The Cost of Living Crisis and Women – Response to UK Parliament Inquiry
by Maddie Darlington, WEN Wales Policy Intern from Cardiff University
Recently, the Wales Women’s Budget Group (WWBG) and the Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales produced a joint response to a UK Parliament Inquiry on the impact of the cost of living crisis on women. While their response welcomes some Government support measures, such as hardship payments and childcare investment, it laments that these measures do not go far enough to protect vulnerable women across Wales and the UK. To do so, WWBG and WEN call for the prioritisation of social security reform and investment in vital public services, such as health and social care.
The response identifies key challenges for women in the current crisis, and highlights how rising food, energy, housing and other costs have disproportionately impacted women compared to men. One issue that detrimentally impacts women’s income is that 39% of women in Wales work part-time, compared to 12.1% of men, which is often related to the disproportionate shares of caring responsibilities. This inequality means women have less wealth and savings overall, and are thus hit harder by economic impacts of successive crises, including the current cost of living crisis. Thisoften leads to debt as costs continue to rise. Women are not only more likely to suffer economically as a result of rising costs, but they are also more likely to experience negative psychological effects with many reporting that the increased cost of living has negatively impacted their mental health.
Another important consideration highlighted in the response is the long-term effects of the rise in the cost of living on equalities for women. As noted above, the rising cost of living is having a disproportionate effect on women and is pushing them into further debt and poverty as costs are continuing to rise. The response calls for targeted action to avoid further entrenching this inequality. Another key issue identified is that rising housing costs may leave women suffering from domestic and financial abuse in abusive situations for longer, as they lack sufficient funds to leave.
The third point raised in the inquiry response relates to the ineffectiveness of current governmental support measures. Although Government cost of living payments will help women meet the cost of essentials in the short-term, they will not provide long-term support for low-income households. As hardship payments are awarded at a household level, their full impact on women is unclear. Nevertheless, the response welcomes the uprating of Universal Credit Childcare support, which will protect households from being pushed further into poverty due to childcare costs that must be paid upfront.
The final section of the response highlights what the Government should do to adequately respond to the inequalities women face. Firstly, it calls for reform to strengthen the support available through the social security system. This includes the removal of the benefits cap and uprating benefits in line with inflation. Another recommendation is the investment in care and other vital public services that women rely on and need. Increased funding is vital in the childcare sector to avoid disadvantage due to the disproportionate caring responsibilities that women bear. Investment in health and social care should also be prioritised, as women are more likely to work in this sector, and its poor pay and conditions only reinforce their unequal economic position.
This response to the UK Parliament’s Inquiry on the gendered impacts of the cost of living crisis highlights the key issues faced by women as costs rise and why this differs to those faced by men. It is vital that these issues are recognised by the UK Government to ensure the adequate protection of women and to address their unequal economic status. To tackle such inequalities, the Government must invest in care and social security. Failing to do so – and failure to embed gender analysis into policy making – will only further entrench gender inequality throughout Wales and the UK.
Read the full response here.
For other consultation responses, click here.