feminist economics

CEDAW – what have budgets got to do with it?

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First published on the Women’s Resource Centre Tumblr

cedawNext week the government comes under review by the UN to see whether they are complying with the catchily-named Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The government must report to the committee about the steps they have made towards women’s equality in key areas such as health, employment, education, representation, social and economic benefits, sex role stereotyping, trafficking and marriage and family law.

Just three weeks prior to this, the Chancellor announced his spending review for 2015-16 detailing government spending cuts and increases in advance of the 2015 election. But how and why are CEDAW and the government’s economic policies connected?

How governments spend and raise money have different implications on women and men. When the some of the Women’s Budget Group, a network of over 200 academics and experts, met to discuss the Chancellor’s spending review, it was clear his announcement held significant disadvantages to women.

Though CEDAW makes no specific references to public expenditure, it does ask the government to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against and ‘ensure the full development and advancement of’ women (Articles 2, 3). They must achieve this not only through active government policy to improve gender equality but also to ensure that their policies don’t unintentionally discriminate against women.

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Bad news for most: The Chancellor’s spending review holds little hope for women

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I was delighted to have this article posted on the TUC’s Touchstone blog on 02/07/2013.

Bad news for most: The Chancellor’s spending review holds little hope for women

Last week members of the Women’s Budget Group met to watch and discuss the Chancellor’s spending review for 2015 – 2016. Predictably it held few surprises: more cuts, more austerity and a few titbits to keep the voting public happy in advance of the 2015 election.

Of course there was some good news – the budget for the NHS remains safe from cuts and overseas development spending continues to be set at 0.7% of GDP. For every public sector job that has been lost, three private sector jobs have been created, and the Chancellor also announced a huge investment in physical infrastructure – roads, rail and nuclear power stations. Which has got to be good, right?

Well not quite.

The Chancellor’s ‘good news’ announcements cover up a multitude of sins. Again we see local authorities bearing the brunt of the cuts with their budgets being slashed by a further 10%. Local Governments provide essential services to women and women’s organisations. Successful programmes like Sure Start now have a future as uncertain as the children they support.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport faces a cut of 7% but many of us balked when Osborne announced that ‘elite sport’ would be protected whilst many local sports clubs face cuts or even closure.  All of these reductions take place whilst the Chancellor has somehow found enough money to protect the defence budget.

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Turning back the clock on women: Northern Ireland and the recession

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‘The model of society being held up for women is, “go back to the home, pick up the unpaid caring role that we, the governments, cannot cover and we will focus on incentivising your husband to support you”.’

(The Northern Ireland Economy: Women on the Edge, Women’s Resource and Development Agency 2011)

This is the message being sent by the government to the women of Northern Ireland according to a new 160 page report on women and the recession – The Northern Ireland Economy: Women on the edge? – a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the financial crisis on women.

It examines a range of issues including childcare, lone parents, older and younger women, migrant women, pensions, welfare reform, debt and housing.

The report, published at the beginning of July by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency and funded by the Office of the First Minster and Deputy First Minister,  provides evidence that women are being disproportionately impacted by the financial crisis and ensuing budget cuts.

The dry statistics of job losses and low wages are brought to life by quotations from interviews and focus groups held with a range of women across the region. One said, “my wages are not going anywhere. Diesel has gone up. I’ve had to use the tumble dryer in bad weather. The cost of nappies has gone up. And I’m expecting another child.”

Another said, “I go and stay with my mum 2/3 nights a week because I cannot afford to keep the heating on. The price of oil is terrible and I have to cut back until I get paid again.”

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