The Fawcett Society has offered its verdict on Chancellor George Osborne’s emergency budget; suggesting it will make women in the workplace worse off.

Ceri Goddard, Fawcett’s Chief Executive, said:

“While the government has done what it can to portray this budget as reaching into all our pockets, the reality is some in the UK will be worse affected than others, and it is women who will bear the brunt. Short-term positives– maintaining a universal right to child benefit and lifting some low income women out of the tax system- will be cancelled out in the long term by where the cuts fall.

“As 65 per cent of the public sector workforce, women will be disproportionately affected by the pay freeze, while also facing a reduced income because the various benefits to be frozen or cut make up a far greater proportion of women’s income than men’s.

“Add to this the coming VAT hike in the cost of everyday household goods that is more likely to be met from their purse, and it’s clear women will pay a higher price.
“Abolishing the health in pregnancy grant will make life harder for many pregnant women, many of whom will already be struggling in the current economic climate. This is completely contrary to government stated intention of protecting the most vulnerable and singles out a benefit specifically targeted at women.

“This cut will give a small short term saving, but leave a lasting impression of a government that sees the benefits that reflect women’s particular needs as soft targets.

“Reducing women’s economic security in this way risks rolling back on women’s independence – as more women are forced to rely on their families and the state for financial support.
“Against a backdrop of unequal pay – women are still paid 16.4 per cent less for full time work and 35 per cent less for part time work than men – the impact on women will be huge.
“As part of the spending review in the Autumn, we urge the government to think carefully about the different effects on women and men their budgets could have. More women than men will lose their jobs when the cuts start to bite, and women will also be disproportionately affected by cuts to public services – women are more likely to rely on public services than men, so will feel reductions in areas such as social care support more severely. Are women going to be expected to pick the up the shortfall in reduced state services?

“Had the Chancellor focused more on tax rises, as opposed to spending cuts, the burden would have been more justly distributed. Tax rises affect those at the top of the pile more severely than those at the bottom, so low paid women would have been better protected from the most austere measures.

“The coalition government must do more than pay lip service to the notion of fairness. If the Chancellor is serious about spreading the burden more fairly, his first step must be assess and publish the way in which the measures announced today will impact on women.

“A robust process for assessing the gender impact of proposals must be put in place before departments make decisions on their cuts and spending.”