Brexit will hit women hard, says report

NHS

UK nurse standing with arms folded

The economic impact of Brexit will hit women hard, leading to lost jobs, cuts to services and a squeeze on family budgets, according to a report by the Women’s Budget Group and the Fawcett Society.

The report is based on economists’ predictions that UK GDP will be between 1.5% and 3.5% lower if the UK stays in the Single Market and Customs Union after Brexit and up to 9.5% lower as a result of a no-deal ‘hard’ Brexit.  It examines what this will mean for women. It warns that:

  • Sectors such as clothing and textiles which have a majority female workforce are particularly vulnerable to increased trade barriers.
  • Despite promises of additional money for the NHS post-Brexit, a downturn in GDP is likely to result in further cuts to government spending on services. Women, who are more likely to work in the public sector and more likely to need public services, will be the worst affected, it says.
  • Increased tariffs and a fall in the value of the pound are likely to lead to increased food prices,  says the report, meaning the poorest families – often led by women – will be hit hardest.

It also warns that a post-Brexit economic crisis could lead to the rolling back of workplace rights, including parental leave, equal treatment and rights for part time workers on which women rely in the name of increased ‘flexibility’ and ‘competitiveness’. It says a poor deal with the EU would put the UK in a weaker position to resist pressure from other countries for trade deals that would damage women’s rights at work, adversely impact them as consumers or undermine the quality of public services including increased competition from overseas for public services.

Sam Smethers, CEO of the Fawcett Society said: “This report clearly shows we risk turning the clock back on gender equality as a result of Brexit. In the context of any economic downturn the argument will be made that sacrificing employment rights and protections is justifiable to make some workers more employable.  Those vulnerable workers will overwhelmingly be women, so we cannot allow that to happen. That is why the Government must amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to protect these rights form being weakened post-Brexit.”

“It is the most disadvantaged women who are most at risk from Brexit. But will they be the ones the UK negotiating team are thinking about?  I doubt it.”

 

 



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