Austerity Cut and the Impact on Black Women Workers

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2016 National Women's Conference
2 October 2015

Conference we note that overall, 65% of public sector employees are women. The public sector provides flexible working for women and better maternity benefits than the private sector. The Fawcett Society reported that the pay gap between women and men is 13.2% in the public sector and 20.4% in the private sector. People from Black communities are more likely to work in the public sector; 40% of employed Black people, compared to 25% of white people.

Changes to benefits will force more women and children in Black communities into poverty. Women from Black communities are more likely to have larger families and be in lower paid jobs, so will be the most affected by housing benefit caps and caps on the benefits working people can receive, such as tax credits.

Conference notes that overall women contributed £5.8 billion raised by the changes to taxes and benefits since 2010, compared to £2.2 billion paid by men. With cuts to specialist support services and the increasing use of unskilled volunteers in the third sector, people with language barriers, including refugees and migrants, will be less likely to be aware of their rights.

We further note that the number of Black workers in low-paid jobs increased by 12.7% in the last 4 years. The TUC report ‘Living on the Margins’, shows that over the same period the number of white workers employed in low-paying industries increased at a much slower rate of 1.8%. In 2014 nearly 37.6% of Black workers worked in low-paid industries, such as cleaning, care work and catering, compared to 29.6% white employees. The report also reveals that Black workers are twice as likely to be trapped in temporary jobs as white workers.

Conference we know that between 2011 and 2014 the number of Black workers trapped in temporary work has increased by 20%, while for white workers it fell by 8%. The TUC says that Black workers on temporary contracts typically earn £30 a week less than white workers in the same situation and nearly £200 a week less than employees on permanent contracts.

Other key findings from the TUC report include:

• In 2014 nearly half a million Black workers were underemployed – an increase of 2.4% on 2011. By contrast the number of underemployed white workers fell by 3.4% between 2011 and 2014.

• Black workers are also more than twice as likely to be in agency work. The number of Black employees doing agency jobs increased by nearly 38% between 2011 and 2014, compared to a 16% rise for white workers.

Campaign groups such as BARAC understand the importance of giving Black communities a voice and linking up the struggles against austerity. Women face the harshest attacks to their living standards and the most vulnerable women in Black communities will be increasingly marginalised by cuts to benefits, education and specialist domestic violence services.

Austerity not only disproportionately affects women, it hits Black women the hardest, adding more layers of structural oppression and racism, to the already multiple layers experienced by the poorest communities.

Conference while it is good that more Black people are getting back into work many have become trapped in low-paid and insecure jobs. For all the talk of a recovery, our economy still isn’t creating enough well-paid, permanent jobs to meet demand. The findings in the TUC report show how Black workers have been disproportionately affected by the rise in causal work since the recession.

Conference we call on the National Women’s Committee to work with the NEC, Labour Link and relevant organisations to:

1)Increase the awareness of the impact of Austerity cuts on women from Black communities and target information at Black women members who have recently arrived in the country to educated them on their Employment Rights

2. Work with the National Black members’ Committee to lobby the government and the opposition parties to use the consideration of race equality in public procurement to improve employment levels for Black workers

3. Lobby the government and the opposition parties to take action to address the under-representation of young Black women on apprenticeships and ensure they are able to access the full range of apprenticeships.

4. Approach the Equality and Human Rights Commission to conduct two sector-based reviews each year to produce an action plan, agreed with employers, for improving performance in ethnic minority recruitment, retention and promotion.