Women in community jobs and the cost of living crisis

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2023 National Community Conference and Seminar
10 November 2022
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that more than 82,000 UNISON members work in the community and voluntary sector. Many of them are women and a significant number work in social care, where women outnumber men four to one.

Generally, women tend to have lower paid jobs and fewer hours than men. Also, there are three times as many women in part-time work as men. However, in the community and voluntary sector, the proportion of women compared to men in part-time work, almost by definition low-paid, is significantly higher.

Conference is very concerned that 71 percent of care workers who work in the independent sector are paid less than the real Living Wage.

Because it’s women who are more likely to be in low paid jobs, they have been hit hard by the sharp rise in inflation and are disproportionately affected by spiralling living costs.

Women are usually the ones who manage household budgets especially in lower income households. Women tend to have the main responsibility for buying food and preparing it for children and families.

The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone but it’s more often than not women who can’t make their household budgets add up and women who have to make the choice between skipping meals or buying their children’s school uniforms. It’s women who end up leaving their jobs because childcare is so expensive.

Conference is also concerned that for some women, an already disproportionate impact, is likely to be even more serious. Conference notes that research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that poverty rates are significantly higher among Black people than white people. TUC research highlights that even prior to Covid-19, over a third of disabled workers were having to cut back on food and heating. Victims/survivors of domestic violence and abuse, including economic abuse, largely women, are likely to find it harder to leave an abusive relationship if they are unsure how they will support themselves and their children as living costs rise.

Conference calls on the Community Service Group Executive to work with the National Women’s Committee to action the following:

1) Work with the Labour Link to press the UK government to

a)tackle and resolve the issue of living cost crisis, highlighting the particularly harsh impact on low paid women workers and

b)provide long term policies that will include addressing food poverty and wastage.

2) Provide information and case studies about the impact of cost of living increases on lower paid women workers to help UNISON’s negotiators bargain on behalf of this group.

3) Campaign for minimum pay rates of £15 an hour across the UK and to restore the £20 cut to universal credit.

4) Campaign for good quality, affordable childcare for all children, properly paid parental leave for all parents and all jobs to be flexible by default.

5) Support the ‘right to a food justice campaign’ which seeks to ensure the right to food in UK.

6) Work with the relevant NEC committees to try to improve the fundraising capacity of UNISON’s There for you charity and continue to publicise to women the vital help available from There for you.