New Communist Party of Britain
The current Conservative, Liberal-Democratic coalition (Coalition) government cuts are having a disproportionately adverse effect on women.
The majority of people who have lost their jobs in the cuts to the public sector have been women. Women have also suffered disproportionately from cuts to childcare and other family support services.
The main problems for women workers are still lower income and shortage of adequate childcare - and now an increasing likeliness of unemployment.
The Office for National Statistics Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) 2011 reported that the median weekly wage for men on adult rates was £495 whilst for women it was £318, a pay gap of more than 20 per cent. Low incomes render most women dependent, either on a share of their partner’s income, or on state benefits and this dependency curtails their freedoms, their personal relationships and every choice they may make in their everyday lives. These economic restrictions are more oppressive than any discriminatory laws, culture or religion.
These restrictions are further exacerbated by women still being expected to undertake the lion’s share of caring for children, the elderly and the sick and taking care of the domestic environment.
Modern domestic technology has not liberated women from these burdens, simply made is just about possible for them to work full or part-time as well being unpaid carers and home-makers but at great cost in terms of lost leisure, rest and relaxation and ultimately health.
Working class women, like working class men, go to work primarily to earn wages to pay for their living, pay off debts and so on. But the working environment outside the home is a social one. Humans are by nature social creatures and need a social environment. The increases in female unemployment throw women back into the social isolation of the bourgeois narrow nuclear family home.
The role of modern working class women is exhausting and seriously under-rewarded but the answer is not to send women back into the home to do nothing but take care of others. Women need and deserve their place in the sun and their economic freedom.
But to enjoy this on an equal basis with men the two main keys to women’s liberation remain:
equal pay and opportunity
and high quality, affordable state-provided childcare - and proper social care for the elderly and long-term sick.
There has a serious reversal on state provision for childcare. Even with small state subsidies paid to parents to buy private sector childcare, it still costs almost as much if not more than a women can expect to earn in a low-paid job. Most working class women have to make arrangements with their partners, grandparents or neighbours, fitting their working hours around the availability of informal childcare.
This excludes many women from higher paid employment and keeps them in part-time, low-skill, low-pay jobs where their intellectual and vocational potential are wasted.
And, like their male colleagues, women workers are victims of the “voluntary” unpaid overtime culture as mentioned elsewhere in this document.
The election of Frances O’Grady to lead the TUC has highlighted that the majority of trade union members are now in the public sector and the majority of them are women. Trade union membership and activity currently offer women valuable support and encouragement in overcoming inequalities.
Single mothers continue to be vilified in the media and used as scapegoats for the failure of social support for them and their children.
Women are increasingly starting families later in life. Some choose to but many are forced into this situation for financial reasons, including expensive or inadequate living accommodation, or fear that their careers could be jeopardised due to employer discrimination. Late pregnancies come with added health risks to both mother and child and a shortage of midwives has increased that risk.
All women should have the choice of if and when they start a family; have good nursing care, readily available fertility treatment on the NHS and including abortion on demand - and without penalties to their career.
Paternity leave now exists but this is unpaid and not compulsory on the employer. It only benefits those in a strong financial situation and who have a cooperative employer. Maternity and paid paternity leave must be extended and available to all, on a non-means tested basis. All parents should have reasonable time to spend with their children and this means curtailing working hours without reduction of income. Parental leave should be available to either parent when a child is sick.
Domestic violence, in all its forms, results from the isolated, unnatural nature of the bourgeois nuclear family and the economic and social tensions and alienation exerted on that structure by bourgeois society. The movement must recognise the occurrence of forced marriage in some communities and campaign against this abuse of women’s rights. Where violence has occurred, society must extend full necessary protection to its victims.
The real, economic freedom to leave a bad family situation before it deteriorates into violence is vital and divorce must be available on demand. No one should be forced to remain in a bad situation for fear of homelessness or penury.
The NCP calls for the decriminalisation of people trafficked, forced or otherwise coerced into the sex industry.
Many of the issues affecting women also impact on men and the fight for equality for women is a crucial part of the class struggle. Inequalities sow divisions in the class when unity and solidarity are most needed.