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New analysis shows women and children will bear the brunt of the cuts

Government ministers have tied themselves in knots trying to argue that their cuts are fair.

Yet new analysis of the budget and spending review shows clearly that women and children will bear the brunt of the cuts. Trying to present this as fair is likely to prove a tough challenge.

The deep, rapid cuts that are now beginning to bite will hit women hard because they make up two-thirds of the public sector workforce and are more likely to use public services and receive benefits, often to support their children.

It may not be their direct intention but the cuts will push an awful lot of women out of well paid, stable employment and into either precarious, part-time or casual labour or back into the home.

The full details are in a new TUC paper on the gender impact of the cuts (pdf), which shows how women will:

The TUC isn’t alone in saying this. The Fawcett Society took the Government to court over their failure to assess the equality impact of the June budget. The Women's Budget Group have accused George Osborne of a stealth tax on women, and in their latest work say that the spending cuts are restoring the age of the male breadwinner.  The Equalities and Human Rights Commission is carrying out a formal, independent assessment of the extent to which the Treasury met its legal obligations to consider the gender impact of its spending decisions.

But while the government tries to bat these awkward questions, women are already organising themselves. Groups such as Women Against the Cuts are springing up. Women are playing a leading part in many local campaigns in towns and cities. Public sector unions are using Equality Impact Assessments to hold employers to account when cuts are being made. Unions are working in collaboration with campaign groups and NGOs to fight cuts at a local level. International Women’s Day 2011 will be a focal point for campaigning against the gender impact of the cuts.

If the government’s strategy was to sit tight and wait for the women to pipe down, and hope that the whole awkward business of gender equality would fade away, I predict that they’ll have a long wait.

Download full report (pdf)

Scarlet Harris is Women's Equality Officer at the TUC.

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