Labour has urged the Conservatives to carry out a gender audit of its tax and spending policies, as the shadow equalities minister, Sarah Champion, published analysis showing that 86% of the burden of austerity since 2010 has fallen on women.
Champion said research carried out by the House of Commons library revealed that women were paying a “disproportionate” price for balancing the government’s books.
“Yesterday, the prime minister and chancellor talked up the significance of International Women’s Day yet their warm words have amounted to nothing,” she said on Thursday.
“Women are still bearing the brunt of this Tory government’s failed austerity agenda – with the 86% figure on women remaining unchanged since last year. Things are just as bad as ever for women under this Tory government.
“Labour calls on the government to urgently publish analysis of the true impact of their budgets and spending announcements on women and to explain how they intend to reverse this disproportionate impact.”
The analysis is based on tax and benefit changes since 2010, with the losses apportioned to whichever individual within a household receives the payments.
In total, the analysis estimates that the cuts will have cost women a total of £79bn since 2010, against £13bn for men.
It shows that, by 2020, men will have borne just 14% of the total burden of welfare cuts, compared with 86% for women.
The chancellor, Philip Hammond, highlighted a £30m package of “support for women” in Wednesday’s budget.
It included: £20m to tackle domestic violence and abuse; £5m to fund events marking the centenary of women’s suffrage; and another £5m to fund “returnships” for parents who have been out of the workforce.
But many of the cuts announced in earlier years by former chancellor George Osborne, including a four-year freeze on many in-work benefits and reductions in the universal credit, are yet to bite.
Hammond has loosened Osborne’s fiscal rules, but he will press ahead with most of the pre-planned austerity measures – though the tax credits rebellion forced the government to promise not to look for fresh savings from the welfare bill in future years.
May had earlier taunted Labour with the fact that the recent Copeland byelection saw a Labour man (Jamie Reed) replaced in the Commons by a Conservative woman (Trudy Harrison).
May has previously pointed out that while Labour champions gender equality, it is the Tory party that has delivered two female prime ministers. There has never been a female chancellor of the exchequer.
Mary-Ann Stephenson, co-director of the Women’s Budget Group lobby group, condemned the Tories in light of the new research.
“This reveals that the government’s aim to help the ‘just about managing’ is incompatible with the chancellor’s decision to ‘continue with our plan’,” she said.
“The 1.8m working families receiving tax credits are the ‘just about managing’, but rising inflation and a freeze in tax credit rates means a sharper fall in their real-terms income.
“The chancellor’s decision to continue with the decisions of his predecessor to cut social security for these low income families, at the same time as cutting taxes, is effectively a transfer from the purses of poorer women into the wallets of richer men.”
Many female MPs wore purple or green on Wednesday to highlight the fact that the budget was being held on International Women’s Day, but some subsequently pointed out that the debate was dominated by men.
Alison McGovern, Labour MP for Wirral South, said: “It was the best part of three hours before any woman spoke in the debate.
“But the insufficient funding for care has a massive impact on the many thousands of low-paid women who work in care.”
The government publishes an analysis of the differential impact of its policies at different points on the income scale, but does not carry out a gender analysis.
However, the Conservatives have been keen to court the female vote with a series of policies, including a pledge of 30 hours a week free childcare in England, despite warnings from nurseries in some areas that the government funding will not cover the costs of providing the extra hours.
The prime minister hosted a women’s day reception at No 10 Downing Street on Thursday night.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010