Engender has worked on issues relating to women’s economic and social inequality since our inception and has had a specific ongoing programme of work looking at ‘welfare’ reform and social security for more than ten years.
Poverty has serious impacts on women’s equality, and more women than men experience poverty in Scotland. The decade of austerity had an immensely disproportionate impact on women and girls, with 86% of cuts coming from women’s pockets. The pandemic has now further exacerbated women’s inequality, with female’ dominated sectors badly hit by restrictions and many women having to step back from paid work to care for children and older and disabled people.
Yet policy intended to tackle poverty is often completely ungendered; initiatives to tackle child poverty, for example, have historically failed to make the link between this and women’s poverty, or account for the fact that the overwhelming majority of lone parent households are headed by women.
Engender’s policy work in this area highlights the disproportionate impact of poverty on women, and calls for gender mainstreaming throughout anti-poverty policy initiatives.
Gender needs to be mainstreamed throughout all Scottish policy and legislation, and the Scottish Government’s ‘national mission’ to eradicate child poverty is no exception.
Gendering mainstreaming involves the integration of a gender perspective into the preparation, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of statistics, policies, regulatory measures and spending programmes, with a view to promoting equality between women and men, and combating discrimination.
Engender routinely calls for improvements in gender mainstreaming, including proper use of equality impact assessments, and robust gender-sensitive sex-disaggregated intersectional data collection.
A critical tool for eradicating poverty is a gendered budget, which is necessary to build a gender equal recovery and in responding to the widely recognised rollback in women’s economic, social and political equality with men as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the pre-budget scrutiny period, we pushed for the Budget to systematically consider how spending decisions and revenue-raising cumulatively impact on women, men and structural gender inequality. This doesn’t mean investing in specific programmes for women and girls (necessarily), but comprehensively assessing all spend and taxation decisions through a gender lens, for example assessing the job creation of traditional infrastructure investments or social care or where new programmes should be targeted to ensure that women can access funds.
Engender’s core policy work includes analysing legislation and policies to ensure they will work for women across Scotland.
The current Child Poverty Delivery Plan (Every Child, Every Chance: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018 – 2022) explicitly recognises that women’s poverty is also inextricably interlinked with child poverty. It is vital that the next Plan, due to be published this spring maintains this clear link and strengthens the policy and practice connections.
However, the Child Poverty Delivery Strategy is just one framework and we need all policies with an aim of ending poverty (and, indeed, all policies full stop) need to ensure that gender inequality in Scotland is taken into consideration both in policy creation, and in an understanding of the impacts of any policy. In recent years we have welcomed the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan that sets out specific actions to improve women’s labour market equality. However there is so much still to be done, including careful examination of how we can use Scotland’s devolved powers over social security to support women who are at risk of poverty by ensuring independent income security, especially for racialised and minoritised women, women experiencing domestic abuse and disabled women who face specific barriers to income.
Our call for action is: any time you encounter a new policy, piece of guidance, or initiative, ask yourself “Does this recognise the different experiences and needs of women? Do I understand why women and might experience this differently? Will this impact on women differently to how it impacts on men? What needs to change to make it work for women?”
All of our policy work can be found on our website engender.scot