‘Women the big losers from tax and benefit cuts’

Women are the biggest losers of the ongoing tax and benefits changes introduced since 2010, according to research by the Women’s Budget Group.

Their analysis finds that lower income groups stand to lose much more than other groups and that women lose more than men in each income decile group except the 10% poorest where both lose out almost equally. Women in the lowest 20% of households stand to lose up to 15% of their individual income by 2020, says the group.

It adds that, even at the top of the income distribution, women will lose out more than men, with men in the highest decile group gaining in cash terms. While men in the top 10% of households will see their net income increase by £329 if the tax and benefits policies introduced in 2010 continued until 2020, women in the second poorest 10% of households will lose on average £2,000 a year by 2020 (15% of their individual income and 12% of their household income).

The WBG says the main factor driving the changes are the successive cuts and freezes in benefits and the failure of measures such as the introduction of the National Living Wage and raising of personal tax allowance to compensate those in lower income groups. It highlights in particular the roll-out of Universal Credit which it says will make people worse off than if the tax credits system (and the reversed cuts conceded last Autumn) had been continued.

Dr Eva Neitzert, director of the WBG, said: “The evidence is clear: women, especially those on low incomes, have shouldered the largest burden of austerity measures. Overall, women stand to lose twice as much as men by 2020 and for those on the lowest incomes this means a cut in living standard of between 18 and 20 percent.

“These results come just days after the Women and Equalities Select Committee described HM Treasury’s Equalities Analysis as ‘insubstantial and lacking in detail’ and documented the repeated refusal of Ministers to engage with the Committee. This begs an obvious question: are the HM Treasury and its Ministers deliberately seeking to hide these inconvenient truths?”

She adds that The Treasury has a legal obligation under the Public Sector Equality Duty to have due regard to the impact of its policies on equality, but says “it doesn’t seem keen to do this in any meaningful way”. She states: “Women’s Budget Group has repeatedly shown that such an analysis is technically possible. There are no excuses: if the HM Treasury wants to understand the impact of its decision-making on different groups in society, the tools and methodologies are there.”

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