Women Bearing the Brunt of Austerity in Britain – NYTimes.com

The Times seems to have a reporter on the European austerity beat. The article is a story out of a Mike Leigh film:

As Britain shaves public services and benefits, advocates contend that women bear more than their fair share of the pain.

“The idea that what we should be doing is rolling back the state, it has really important implications for women,” said Professor Sue Himmelweit, an economist and policy coordinator of the Women’s Budget Group, an advocacy group. “Women lose particularly from public sector cuts. First of all, they lose their jobs.”

Women account for two-thirds of employees in the public sector, where the government’s budget monitor says 710,000 jobs are to disappear. They rely more heavily than men on public services and financial assistance and are expected to lose 70 percent of the £18 billion being cut from benefits like housing support and tax credits for the working poor, says the Fawcett Society, a group pushing for greater gender equality.

Because they are poorer and live longer than men, women will be disproportionately affected by reductions in services to the elderly.

Decades of progress toward greater equality with men are at risk as the downsizing of government makes it harder for mothers, particularly poor ones, to hold on to jobs, the advocates warn. A planned welfare overhaul is likely to make the problem worse by weakening incentives for second earners in poor families to work, they say.

Child care, and the tax credits that help the poorest Britons pay for it, is central to the debate. Britain’s two-parent families spend on average a third of their net incomes on child care, more than in any other wealthy country, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an association of free-market democracies based in Paris.

The U.S. welfare system dismantled many of the supports for mothers more than a decade ago, but subsidized childcare programs have been a key target of governments cuts in the past couple of years, leaving many families without affordable childcare. Some of the news about economic recovery in the U.S. has pointed out the slower recovery for women, but there hasn’t been much attention to childcare (which allows both men and women to work).

Read: Women Bearing the Brunt of Austerity in Britain – NYTimes.com (March 7, 2012)