‘Poverty Shock Absorbers’: Women’s lives cut short by their unequal position in society | Inequality

Women who speak out against gender inequality are often shunned, especially in England. After all, women here are lucky – we are much better off than in other countries. Is not it?

The short answer is, just some of us. A devastating new analysis of data from the Health Foundation has found – on the starkest measure – that for many women in England, this is far from the case.

The life expectancy of women in the poorest parts of England is lower than the overall life expectancy of women in every OECD country in the world except Mexico. Let that sink in for a second. Lower than all other countries in this club, except one.

In 2017-19, life expectancy for women in the most deprived local areas of England was 78.7 years. In the wealthiest regions, it was 86.4 years. What does this say about the situation of England’s poorest women in 2022?

He tells us that women are the “shock absorbers of poverty,” according to the Women’s Budget Group. Women are more likely to be poor and to have more debt than men.

Because of their unpaid family responsibilities, they can often work fewer hours and therefore have less savings and lower pensions. For minority and disabled women, the picture is even bleaker. When the social safety net is slashed – as it has been repeatedly for more than a decade – it is women who fall first through the cracks.

“There is very clear evidence that poverty is linked to a shorter life expectancy,” says Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society.

“More than a decade of austerity and rising levels of poverty have hit women hard. They are more likely to work with the lowest incomes, to be single parents or to retire with a lower pension.

It’s not poverty alone that impacts life expectancy – inequality itself is bad for people, she adds. “High levels of inequality will contribute to shortening the lifespan of these women – it’s a very important part of this picture.”

Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, agrees. “Women are paying a heavy price for a one-size-fits-all approach to economic planning,” she said. Reid, a woman not easily blinded by dismal statistics on gender inequality, admits to being genuinely shocked by the new analysis.

“Political choices are made that benefit those who have always benefited,” she says. “These data tell us very clearly that we are not using our abundant wealth to fight inequality. It is out of the question that we are in this position. Not at all.”

The data snapshot was taken before the pandemic. A pandemic that caused twice as many (43%) young women from low-income households to say their financial situation had deteriorated, compared to 21% of high-income young women and just 16% of high-income men raised.

In its report on the unequal gender economic impacts of the pandemic, the Women and Equalities Committee concluded that “existing gender inequalities in the economy have been ignored and sometimes exacerbated by the policy response to the pandemic”. .

In December, the government pledged to ‘reset the dial’ on women’s health in England, with its Vision for Women’s Health strategy, after 100,000 women came forward to share their health concerns. Muttering that it was time the rampant sexism in health care was acknowledged, it was well received.

But even the most dazzling visions of health care can achieve nothing without resources and long-term commitment. And even then, it will have little impact on this starkest outcome if the long-standing and persistent unequal position of women in society is not addressed.

With the Government refusing to carry out a review of the cost of childcare which is keeping so many women out of work, no commitment to restoring the Universal Credit Boost to £20 and the hard-biting cost of living crisis seems hardly indicate the sign.

“We are entering a cost-of-living crisis that, again, will hit women the hardest,” says Olchawski. “The potential impact of this is terrifying.”

Leave a Comment