Press Release : What will the country look like for women in the next 5 years?
A Fair Deal for Women, a coalition of women’s organisations calls on new PM to address key areas affecting women. There are now more women in parliament than ever before, but what does the future hold for us under the new Conservative government? This campaign group has broken down the issues which need to be addressed to ensure the next 5 years offer women a fair deal. In light of the General Election results, what do the Conservative party pledges mean for women?
The Conservatives plan to eradicate the deficit by 2018 through spending cuts which disproportionately affect women.
Besides £12 billion in proposed unspecified welfare cuts, they proposed cutting income tax for 30 million people, which disproportionately benefits men over women; policies like this, led to women paying off 79% (and men only 21%) of the deficit in the previous government. Ongoing austerity policies of this nature would see, yet again, the vast majority of deficit repayments coming from women’s pockets.
Does that sound like a fair deal?
The Conservatives have refused on many occasions to rule out cutting child benefit. We know that cuts to child benefit during the coalition pushed many women and children into poverty, with 1 in 5 mothers missing meals to feed their kids.
They have not made a clear commitment to ending low paid and insecure work for women, only outlining that they will ‘encourage organisations’ to pay the living wage ‘wherever they can afford it’. Yet, 1 in 4 women are already in low paid and insecure work, with 1 in 8 of them on zero hours contracts. Our worry is that further austerity policies, without specific plans to help women get stable work, will be detrimental to women’s fair and equal participation in the labour market.
Further austerity measures could see more women being pushed into poverty. Poverty and ill health are inextricably linked (of which there was conspicuously little discussion during the election campaign) yet there appears to be no suggestion of a gendered analysis of health policy. This is in spite of the fact that women live for longer in worse health than men, and are more likely to suffer from the most common chronic diseases. We know that women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, and are likely to neglect their own health due to the care responsibilities that fall disproportionately on them.
We welcomed the letter to the End Violence against Women coalition in which the Prime Minister outlines more resources for refuges and rape crisis centres. We would urge him to fully resource a national strategy to sustain this across the country. In the previous government 95% of women’s organisations faced funding cuts and 25% said further cuts would result in closure.
We hope that Nicky Morgan’s commitment to compulsory sex and relationships education to tackle violence against women and girls will be realised, especially in light of the fact that the Conservative party will not take steps towards implementing the Leveson inquiry recommendations.
Will MPs engage with the End Violence against Women coalition’s advice on media sexualisation of women and girls, negative stereotypes or harmful portrayal of violence against women? The media has a crucial role to play in attitudes towards women, including attitudes towards sexual violence, and positive role models for women’s empowerment.
Women are represented in top positions within the law, media, business, finance and politics in dismally low numbers. In their manifesto the Conservatives outline they want to see the low number of women on boards rise. “We also want to increase the proportion of public appointments going to women in the next Parliament,” they pledged “as well as the number of female MPs.” We hope that this rhetoric is followed by action.
Women need to be brought into power and decision making at senior levels if we aspire to have a fair society. Women only make up a shocking 5% of newspaper editors, and less than 20% of office holders in almost all levels of our judiciary.
The conservative manifesto also promises “we will continue to review our legal aid systems, so they can continue to provide access to justice in an efficient way.” Does ‘efficient’ mean additional cuts to legal aid (already amounting to £350 million during the coalition) which have left many women unable to attain justice after suffering from domestic violence? We hope not.
Let’s work together to join the dots for an economic recovery that isn’t funded disproportionally from women’s pockets, and that doesn’t allow women’s equality to be rolled back.
“We urge our government to work across departments in order to recognise and address the cumulative and unfair impact of many of their policies on women. Are we really all in this together?” Vivienne Hayes CEO of the Women’s Resource Centre.
DD: 020 7697 3467