Is Gender Important in a Recession?
This week is Equal Pay Day in the UK. It comes at a particularly apt moment politically after the UK Government has announced a series of swingeing cutbacks in public services as a result of the ongoing financial crisis.
A lobby group here, the Fawcett Society, is petitioning to sue the Government, claiming it has not done a full gender impact assessment of how the cuts will affect women and says that they will suffer much more than men. This is because they are more likely to work in the public sector, more likely to have caring responsibilities and more likely to be poor.
Commentators, however, including from the left, have criticized this move. They say it stereotypes women as being the only people with caring responsibilities; they ask where the Fawcett Society was in the first part of the recession, which hit the private sector, particularly areas such as construction, which are dominated by men; and they say it shifts the focus of who will suffer most away from the poor, given that many women are fairly wealthy and, apart from losing child benefit, will be mostly unaffected.
This has been the traditional problem with the left and feminism, though. Some sections still see feminism as a distraction from the real issues of poverty and its causes. However, the point the Fawcett Society is making is that, unlike in the private sector, which has to some degree bounced back from the recession, jobs cut in the public sector will disappear and are unlikely to be brought back.
Moreover, it is all very well to say that caring responsibilities should not be the territory of any one gender, but the reality is very much that that is still the case.Continued on the next page