March 2012        

The impact of the recession on women

There is no doubt that both men and women are feeling the impact of this global recession. The question of the impact on women is best addressed by looking at the situation of women in Ireland and globally.
     Women still provide the majority of care-giving internationally. Therefore, when services and supports that exist to provide care to elderly and other vulnerable groups are reduced it is women who pick up the slack. When the supports that are there for our children are removed, it is women who will have to pick up most of the slack. Therefore, when the state cannot provide support we see women stepping in to fill the vacuum.
     This is true in Ireland as we see home-help hours being cut back. The cutting of home help is a double-edged sword, because this is for the most part provided by women, so this group ends up having their hours cut and their earnings depressed as well as the additional burden of care-giving.
     Consider this in the light of the fact that women already have the pay gap to contend with and we see the hill get steeper and more difficult to climb.
     So, in an economy that is shrinking, those who are marginalised become more vulnerable. This is very obvious when we look at low-paid health workers such as home helps.
     The global recession means that societies are turning away from state provision of services and towards privatisation. This disproportionately affects low-paid women workers (and women are more likely to be in the low-pay category than men, as we know), both as workers and as carers.
     Look at the campaign to stop the cuts in the community sector organised by SIPTU and the lone parents’ group SPARK. Look at the make-up of the protesters: they are mostly women, and they are at the cutting edge of this recession. Lone parents are among the main groups really beginning to feel the impact of austerity.
     And so when we hear people say that austerity is not working, this means that those who can be in work and who require support are not working.
     Lone parents need these supports to be able to gain access to employment. Community employment schemes are essential for women and for the retention of their place in the work force. If these women cannot work they have no option but to apply for social welfare. They have to raise their children on social welfare, and so the cycle begins once again.
     There is no doubt that the recession is affecting both men and women, but the disproportionate effect on women is one that will live on for generations.

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