BME women ‘hardest hit by austerity’

The poorest families have been worst hit by austerity and will have seen their income drop by an average of around 17% between 2010 and 2020, with Black and Asian women taking the biggest hit, according to a new report.

The Intersecting Inequalities study by the Runnymede Trust and the Women’s Budget Group looks at the impact of tax and benefit changes since 2010 and says Black and Asian women have been disproportionately affected given the structural inequalities women face which means they earn less, own less and have more responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work and the fact that Black and Asian households are worst hit by austerity.

It projects that Black and Asian households in the lowest fifth of incomes will experience the biggest average drop in living standards of 19.2% and 20.1%, respectively in the period from 2010 to 2020. In 2015/16, says the report, 50% of Bangladeshi households, 46% of Pakistani households and 40% of Black African/Caribbean households were living in poverty compared to 19% of White British households.

It adds that BME women face multiple disadvantages, including sexism and racism in the labour market. Its research finds they face discrimination and bias at every stage of the recruitment process – during the evaluation of CVs and application forms, at the interview stage and once in post. Even when qualifications are taken into account, it says, ethnic minority women are more likely to be unemployed than their White counterparts.

BME women are also more likely to live in households with dependent children. Over half of Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Black African households had one or more dependent children compared with just over a quarter of White British households. Moreover, they are more likely to live in large families: 51% of Black African, 65% of Pakistani and 64% of Bangladeshi children live in large families, compared to 30% of those in White British families.

The report, which comes the same day as a Government race equality audit is published, calls for an end to the benefit freeze and for benefits and tax credits to be increased annually, linked to the cost of living and/or average wages.

It seek s a review of Universal Credit and the end of the six-week wait for payments. It calls for incentives for second earners, the removal of ‘arbitrary’ caps on benefits, investment in social infrastructure and for government funding based on need.

The Government audit shows unemployment for black, Asian and minority ethnic people is nearly double that of white people in the UK and disparities in the education system, including that Black Caribbean pupils are being permanently excluded from school three times as often as White British pupils and that White British pupils on free school meals perform the worst of all ethnic groups in Key Stage 2.

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