In the UK, the Fawcett Society has been actively engaged in mounting a challenge to the Coalition government’s approach to tackling the deficit. A recent high court challenge to the emergency budget demanded that there is a judicial review of the gender impact.
It appears that women will be especially badly hit through government cuts – as women are more likely to work within the public sector and therefore are effected by the triple whammy of pay, pensions and redundancies. Women also rely more than men on state support, and access public services more frequently. Sadly, on the 6th December 2011 the Fawcett Society’s case was rejected by the High Court for being ‘too academic’.
In response to the hearing and judgement, Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society has issued the following statement:
“Today’s hearing saw the government admit they had not carried out an assessment of how the budget will impact on women and men, something they’ve described as ‘regrettable’.
“Although hundreds of thousands of women’s incomes will be affected by the public sector pay freeze, and the poorest pensioners and lone mothers will lose out through the changes to benefits and pensions, the government conceded it had not considered the impact on women and men when drawing up its plans. Of the £8 billion worth of changes to tax and welfare, 72 per cent will come from women’s pockets, in comparison to 28 per cent from men’s.
“Mr Justice Ouseley judged that policies set to have such a dramatically different impact on women and men merit further scrutiny. The judge said the Equality and Human Rights Commission was best placed to conduct this kind of analysis.
“While we are disappointed not to have been granted a judicial review of the budget, we are pleased the government has today heard that budgetary decisions are not above equality law – and that a court of law agreed with us that the government’s economic processes need to be looked at again.
“Outside of the courts, our action has already made an impact. When drawing up the Comprehensive Spending Review, the government produced the first ever equalities statement to accompany such a big piece of financial policy. Though we feel it’s inadequate, it’s a start.
“There is increased recognition and understanding of the role of equality law generally, and growing demand that women are not forced to bear the brunt of cuts. The issue of women’s rights has inched that little bit closer to its rightful place at the heart of policy making.
“This case was one part of a much wider Fawcett Society campaign for women’s economic independence, which is key to fighting for women’s equality.
“We hope our case has ensured that neither the government nor any other public body will in future think it appropriate to bypass equality law.”
We will keep you posted in future postings about gender and cuts in public services and education. You can share your views on this below