OFN has found their report highlights various groups of women: women with disabilities, carers, BAME women, single parents – but there is no mention of older women or women pensioners. This is a common omission in policy documents, and yet age is on of the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010. We older women are doing unpaid labour that is not accounted for; we are contributing vastly to society as volunteers of many types, carers and grannies. If we were to withdraw our unpaid labour – society might well collapse.
Many women are not eligible for a full UK pension owing to their paid work records, parenting and caring. Marital status tied to partner’s NI contributions and divorce judgements add to the sex pension gap.
Our experience is that in terms of policy reports and references to statistics, we have to go coal mining to find if anyone has collected data on the specific group: older women. Last year in our Fighting Fit project we campaigned for older women to be included in statistics of domestic violence against women, as we had found all women over age 59 had been lumped in with older men in the category “elder abuse”.
So what nuggets can we take from the WBG report? Here are some:
• An increase in the cost-of-living will hit the poorest hardest. Women are more likely to be poor and have been hit harder by cuts to social security and provision of public services over the past decade. These austerity measures were the biggest cuts to state spending because of the 2008 financial crisis when the UK government bailed out the banks to the tune of £141bn.
• Women have lower levels of savings and wealth than men. Even before Covid-19, women were more likely to be in debt and this has worsened.
• Women are the ‘shock absorbers of poverty’. They tend to have the main responsibility for the purchase and preparation of food for their families, and for the management of budgets of poor households.
• People with disabilities were already facing on average an extra £583 in costs per month due to their impairment or condition.
• Victims/survivors of domestic violence and abuse, including economic abuse, are likely to find it harder to leave an abusive relationship if they are unsure how they will support themselves and their children as living costs rise.
What can and should be done? Recommendations from the Report:
– a windfall tax on energy companies to tax the steep profits resulting from the increase in energy prices, to help support families struggling to pay their energy bills;
– investment in retrofitting homes, to reduce energy costs;
– investment in public transport to reduce transport and fuel costs;
– investment in social housing to reduce housing costs;
– investment in social infrastructure, particularly care services, to support people with care needs and so that unpaid care becomes truly a choice.