We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Women and the poorest households to pay the price of Brexit

March 29, 2018 4:00 PM

The Economic Impact of Brexit on Women Lib Dem Women (Libdemwomen)

The report published this week by the Women's Budget Group and the Fawcett Society warns that the UK's poorest and most vulnerable women are likely to be the hardest hit by Brexit.

Because of the avalance of news stories about Brexit from all sides, it's becoming all too easy to zone out however this report is very clear that a post-Brexit economic slump could have a very real impact on women's everyday lives and on the poorest households.. Workplace rights, parental leave, and rights for part-time workers (on which more women than men rely) could all be threatened. If the government opts for a 'hard' Brexit and we leave the Single Market and Customs Union, the situation for women is likely to become even worse.
A significant economic downturn could also cause government cuts to public services, a sector of employment where women are more likely to work. Other sectors with a largely female workforce such as clothing and textiles could be harmed by increased trade barriers.
A further drop in the value of the pound coupled with increased trade tariffs would probably drive up food prices, affecting the women who tend to manage budgets in the UK's poorest households.

"This report clearly shows we risk turning the clock back on gender equality as a result of Brexit," says the Fawcett Society's CEO Sam Smethers.
"In the context of any economic downturn, the argument will be made that sacrificing employment rights and protections is justifiable to make some workers more employable. Those vulnerable workers will overwhelmingly be women, so we cannot allow that to happen." Smethers has also urged the government to "amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to protect these rights from being weakened post-Brexit."

Factors highlighted:
* Uncertainty about what form Brexit will take makes it impossible to accurately predict either the overall economic impact or the gendered implications in the UK. The majority of economists however predict a negative impact on GDP with estimates of a fall, compared to the situation had we remained in the EU, ranging from of 1.5% to 9.5%.

* Trade agreements can have significantly different impacts on different groups of women and men because of differences in economic position, caring responsibilities and power.

* Despite women and girls being over 50% of the UK population, their rights and needs remain marginalised and conditional in the business of government, with Westminster failing to meet many of the standards for the Inter Parliamentary Union's evidence-based framework for gender-sensitive parliaments. Gender impact assessments and gender-responsive budgeting and planning are not mainstreamed and the gendered impacts of Brexit were largely absent from pre-referendum discussions.

* If the economy shrinks this is likely to lead to job losses, particularly in sectors that are heavily dependent on trade with the EU. These include sectors such as clothing and textiles which have a majority female workforce. 

* Much of the legislation protecting equality and workplace rights that women benefit from originated in, or was strengthened through, the EU. Although this is being incorporated into UK law through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, it is vulnerable to change by a future government. 

* The projected downturn in GDP is likely to result in further cuts to government spending which will have disproportionate impact on women, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. 

* EU consumer law sets the framework for consumer rights in the UK and will be vulnerable to change by a future government once the UK leaves the EU. 

* Consumer rights could be particularly impacted by trade deals with non-EU countries. The US for example allows for the chlorination of chicken or hormones in beef and would be likely to want to ensure access to UK markets for these products, again a poor trade deal with the EU would mean the UK was in a weaker position to resist such pressures. 

* The combination of increased tariffs under WTO rules and a fall in the value of the pound could cost average households in the UK £580 per year, the effects of which will be felt most severely by the poorest households. 


Orange flag white