Women bear brunt of cost of living crisis

#uwomen23 One of the key debates at women’s conference this year focused on the disproportionate effect on women of the cost of living crisis. It recognised the impact on women’s health, wellbeing and safety, and the further impact on their children.

Scotland had two motions on this topic, and delegates backed both, as conference set out a range of measures to tackle the impact of poverty and financial struggles on our women members. This included action on women’s endemic low pay and also a campaign for the introduction of supports for women facing domestic violence including a statutory right to paid leave.

Moving our motion on surviving the cost of living crisis, regional delegate Kate Ramsden told delegates that it is one of her biggest frustrations that work seen as “women’s work” is valued – and paid – so poorly in our society.

“If COVID taught us anything it was that the essential services that people could not go without, that protected our most vulnerable citizens, were roles predominantly done by women.”

But instead of valuing that work it’s back to business as usual, Kate said, although it’s worse because these workers are the very people suffering from the cost of living crisis.

“There is no doubt at all that this has a disproportionate impact on women. Women were already more likely to be living in poverty than men – victims of the gender pay gap which continues to undervalue women’s work.

“And if you are a woman and also Black, or disabled or LGBT+, or young, or old then things are likely to be even worse.

“That is why we need bottom loaded pay rises. But more than that. We need women’s work to be properly valued and decently paid,” said Kate,

She pointed out that giving all workers a decent pay rise is not just good for them – it’s also good for the economy.

“So when people say: “The country can’t afford all these pay rises,” tell them the country can’t afford not to – morally and economically.”

Lyn-Marie O’Hara moved Scotland’s second motion on the impact of the cost of living crisis on women experiencing domestic abuse. She spoke of how that has significantly impeded women’s ability to flee violence and to seek support.

“Women suffering experiencing domestic violence were already finding it harder to escape domestic abuse during the Covid pandemic,” said Lyn Marie. The cost of living crisis has left them more vulnerable to coercive control around financial hardship, leaving these women facing more barriers to leaving abusive situations.

“We all know women workers who have been experienced domestic violence and at the same time have been trying to juggle a job and caring for their families. That isn’t right and leaves these women and their children in very vulnerable, and potentially life threatening situations.

“We are calling on the Women’s Committee to campaign for an emergency domestic abuse fund to support survivors of domestic abuse to pay for essential items and energy bills.

“There should also be a statutory right to paid leave for those experiencing domestic abuse.”

Scotland delegate Michelle Brewster, of Police Scotland branch, made her maiden speech at a conference and spoke movingly and personally of the pressing need for paid time off for women experiencing domestic abuse.

She told delegates that through her own recent experience she can say that “it’s critically important we fight for the right to statutory leave for women escaping domestic abuse.”

Michelle said: “Having the time and space allowed me (mostly while my daughter was in school) to get the space to talk and to engage with victim support, Police Domestic Unit, Women’s Aid; and to sort medical appointments and put many arrangements in place while life was in complete turmoil.

“It eventually allowing me the time and space to get our home back to a safe space again for myself and my daughter.

“When women are dealing with such a highly charged situations, they absolutely need to have that time to concentrate on themselves and their children without worrying about their job and whether it will still be there for them,” said Michelle. “I was so lucky to get that support and I know how fundamental it is for all women experiencing domestic abuse.”