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The numbers tell us all we need to know about Brexit and women

by Jenna Norman on 23.04.19 in Uncategorised

"The time and money being spent on Brexit is draining government finances, energy and the political will to do literally anything else. Meanwhile, the poorest women are already paying the price for a botched Brexit. And we haven’t even left."

"The time and money being spent on Brexit is draining government finances, energy and the political will to do literally anything else. Meanwhile, the poorest women are already paying the price for a botched Brexit. And we haven’t even left."

The numbers tell us all we need to know about Brexit and women. S&P Global Ratings tells us that we’ve lost £6.6 billion in economic activity every single quarter since we voted to leave the European Union. Last week, Goldman Sachs calculated that the process of trying (and failing) to leave the European Union is costing us £600 million a week. That’s £120 million a day. £5 million an hour — which, incidentally is around the same amount (£5.5 million) as the government is spending every month on consultants alone.

The government has also just forked out $16 million for a luxury apartment in New York to house a civil servant whose job it will be to persuade Donald Trump to sell us chlorinated chicken and carcinogenic beauty products in post-Brexit Britain.

At the other end of the scale, statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week revealed that the poorest women have had their life expectancies shortened by 98 days since 2012. The richest women, meanwhile, have had 84 days added to their lives. Women in the most deprived areas are now expected to live for seven and a half fewer years than women in the most affluent areas of the UK.

And this isn’t just about class. For working class women, the traditional female longevity advantage no longer holds: women in the most deprived parts of the UK die nearly 100 days earlier than their male counterparts. In fact, ONS data shows that men in the most deprived areas have had 4.4 years added to their lives in the same period.

These statistics expose the sheer scale of inequality in the UK. It also demonstrates what feminist economists have being saying for years: the working class is not exclusively male and measuring inequality by household is not always an accurate reflection of reality. This is what the Women’s Budget Group calls ‘the female face of poverty’ — and it has huge implications for Brexit.

Poverty and inequality in the UK is everyone’s problem: the impact on men should not be understated or downplayed. But the data is clear: poverty in this country is a distinctly gendered problem.

We already know that 86% of public service cuts since 2010 have fallen on women, but these new statistics reveal the truly severe impact. Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions showed that in 2016 25% of single women and 26% of single men lived in poverty. By 2018, the figure for men had fallen to 23%, but for women it had stayed the same. Not quite a giant leap for mankind, but still better than the stagnation for womankind.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of single female pensioners are unable to meet their everyday living costs, the highest figure in 15 years. That’s 600,000 women. 45% of single parents – 90% of whom are women – live in poverty. Almost half of children who live with a single parent (47%) are now living in poverty.

Meanwhile the Trussell Trust reports that food bank usage was up 13% in 2018; Shelter tells us that 320,000 people in the UK are homeless; and the ONS reveals that of the 901,000 people on zero hour contracts at the end of 2018, over half (57.4%) were women.

We have spent 10 years cutting the deficit by any means possible. The message has been loud and clear: when money’s tight it is the most marginalised groups including women, immigrants and ethnic minorities who must tighten the belts, pull up their bootstraps and pick up the pieces.

As WBG Director Maryann Stephenson said in response to the spring statement last month “if money can be found to deal with the self-inflicted disaster of Brexit it can be found to restore our public services and end child poverty.”

But the time and money being spent on Brexit is draining government finances, energy and the political will to do literally anything else. Meanwhile, the poorest women are already paying the price for a botched Brexit. And we haven’t even left.

Every form of Brexit delivers more years of uncertainty that will distract parliament from the real issues that Britain faces. The only way to break this gridlock, relieve parliament of the crisis, and get on with the business of healing the country is to put the decision back to the people. Now that we know the facts, we deserve our say.