Scotland – Women face sharp-end of cuts

Working class women are facing the brunt of job losses and the huge cuts in essential public services.  Recent reports by the TUC and the UK Women’s Budget group make grim reading as they paint a devastating picture that the recession has and will continue to have on the lives of millions of women. In fact, such is the disproportionate impact of the recent Con-Dem cuts on women they are being taken to court by The Fawcett Society for breaches of the Gender Equality Duty!

40 years after the Equal Pay Act and women are still earning less than men, 17% less if you are full time and 36% less if you are part time (compared to men in a full time job). 

The pay freeze imposed on the public sector will do little to narrow the gap, especially given that 65% of workers in the public sector are women, who won’t see any pay increases for the foreseeable future.  Indeed, such is the impact of the recession that women are not expected to see pay equality for another 67 years!! (Chartered Management Institute)

Women are also more likely to face job losses than men, which is a change from previous recessions.  The recession in the 1990’s saw the manufacturing industry in Scotland and the UK decimated.  This mainly affected men and it also saw men’s wages fall as they were forced to work in the lower paying services industries.

Today’s recession has hit the financial and services sector, which has more women workers, and of course we are bracing ourselves for the cuts in the public sector.

Glasgow City Council has warned of “harder, faster and deeper cuts”.  They have announced that at least 2,800 jobs are to go; other councils are indicating similar levels of cuts.

The NHS and the Civil Service are also facing substantial job losses on a scale that’s never been seen.  These cuts will undoubtedly hit women hardest due to the high concentration of women working in these sectors.

But it’s not just the workers it affects. Women also rely more on the services that the public sector provides, the nurseries, care homes, after school clubs – without these services the burden of this will fall back onto women to provide unpaid.
impact of cuts

Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland have also warned of the impact that the cuts in vital services will have on the lives and welfare of women.  Rape Crisis Centres across Scotland receive grants from the Scottish Governments Violence Against Women Fund.

Without this money they face closures. Already we have seen some services been forced to close, such as Breakthrough in Glasgow who provide support for women who have experienced rape or sexual assault.

Many Women’s Aid groups are also very worried about their funding. Falkirk Council no longer funds Women’s Aid refuge provision and will instead just provide women with council temporary accommodation. This is a real step backwards in terms of provision of safe, secure refuge accommodation and support. This is probably the tip of the iceberg.

The current service provision, even before the cuts, is still inadequate. In 2009 over 3,000 women in Scotland who needed refuge accommodation were turned away due to lack of space, in the UK as a whole it was 58,000 women! 

Given that 1 in 5 women have experienced domestic abuse at some point in their lives, 21% of women and 11% of men have experienced childhood sexual abuse and 5% of women over 16 have been sexually assaulted there is still a vital need for these services.

While the legal action taken by the Fawcett society is highlighting the impact of the budget cuts on women, however, it won’t have any impact on the cuts.
The only way for us to challenge these cuts and defend jobs and services is to get organised and fight these cuts.

Unison’s initiative in Glasgow City Council to launch a Defend Public Services campaign which aims to involve all of the public sector unions, its workers and the communities fight these cuts is an important step forward.

A key part of this will be to encourage women and women’s organisation to join in these campaigns and help play a central role in fighting the cuts.

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