In light of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s prediction that unemployment “will rise to a peak of 2.95 million in the second half of 2012 and remain near that level until 2015, the entire period of the coalition government”, it is important to consider the effects this will have on women in more detail. The quote comes from a Guardian article, which reports:
“The CIPD suggests that a majority of the staff likely to lose their jobs will be women inpart-time work or on low wages, who make up a large proportion of the public sector workforce.”
Women are more likely to do part-time work and when they do partake in full-time work, it is more likely to be low-paid and insecure (the gender pay gap is extensive for both part-time and full-time work, however) – this is a major reason for why women are more likely to be in poverty. Their child obligations form part of the explanation of why this inequality exists – this is one of the many reasons for why I continually argue for better childcare provision. However, the Tories have no real commitment to improving this, and the LibDems dropped theirs long ago, in their era of ‘ambitions’. Furthermore, the government’s intentions to cut benefits will only make the situation worse – benefits need to be increased, not decreased!
As well as public sector cuts hitting women the hardest, the implementation of the ‘Big Society’ will only serve to strengthen this. No doubt about it, the two are interlinked. However, the ‘Big Society’ adds a new dimension to understanding the future position of many women. One of the main intentions is to increase the voluntary sector and private sector in expense of the public sector. As we have already noted, the CIPD have commented on how women will suffer the most from the future public sector cuts. However, it is important to consider how women are also more likely to take part in what the Department for International Development called the ‘reproductive economy’, as women are more likely to take care of children, parents, other relatives and friends for no cost. This type of work is what the ‘Big Society’ will champion.
Women are already more likely to take part in a ‘double shift’ where they work part-time and within the ‘reproductive economy’ – what the proposals will do is see women’s ability to have paid work undermined, whilst their ‘obligations’ to undertake unpaid care will be strengthened. This is just another reason for why deep ranging public sector cuts and the ‘Big Society’ will have very damaging and dangerous consequences.