Women and the cost of living crisis

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2023 National Women's Conference
11 October 2022

Conference notes that women are disproportionately affected by spiralling living costs. Women are more likely to be in low paid jobs and have been hit hardest by the sharp rise in inflation.

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. Women also tend to have lower paid jobs and fewer hours than men. There are three times as many women in part-time work as men. A fifth of women are paid below the real Living Wage. A significant number of UNISON members work in social care, where women outnumber men four to one. Conference is very concerned that 71 percent of care workers who work in the independent sector are paid less than the real Living Wage.

Conference also notes that women tend to spend a greater proportion of their income on bills and household goods whether it’s cleaning products or kids’ school uniforms. 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 national women’s committee to work with UNISON’s National Executive 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 women workers to help negotiate & bargain for a better pay deal that benefits everyone but workers on low wages who tend to be women.

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 publicize to women the vital help available from There for you.