New Communist Party of Britain
New Communist Party of Britain
adopted December 2015
The Conservative government cuts have had a disproportionately adverse effect on women.
A report 'The impact on women of recession and austerity', prepared for TUC Women’s Conference 2015, took stock and looked at how women have fared through recession and austerity. It found that while progress on some headline measures of gender equality has continued “the employment and pay gap have continued to narrow, for example “some women are facing new hardships and barriers to equality. The number of women in work is greater than ever before but young women’s employment, which fell furthest in the recession years, has still not recovered.
There has been a rise in the number of women who are stuck on zero‑hours and short‑hours contracts unable to get enough work to make ends meet and afraid to complain in case they lose the hours that they do have.
Pay in real terms has fallen for women even though it hasn’t fallen by as much as for men. Women working full‑time now earn about nine per cent less per hour than men but women working part‑time earn nearly 38 per cent less.
They still make up the majority of those paid less than the living wage and more women than ever before are in part‑time work because they can’t find full‑time work. Single mothers face greater obligations to look for work and are at greater risk of having their benefits taken away. They are also the group most likely to be sanctioned for unjustifiable reasons.
More single mothers are now in work but frequently they are stuck in low‑skilled and low‑paid jobs which they have little chance of progressing from.
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 affordable childcare.
Women still are far more often forced to “choose” part‑time work because of their burden of family caring responsibilities. The answer is not simply to try to force equal caring roles on both parents. It is a fault of the narrow bourgeois family that caring for growing children and the elderly is forced on to a fragile two‑person unit. In previous societies families were a much wider and larger grouping where caring responsibilities were shared more widely and did not lead to the carer being isolated from the group while caring.
The way forward is for society now to increase freely available child care. Our modern school system, since 1870, was created partly for this purpose to allow mothers of over‑fives to become earners. But this still restricts women to part‑time work because there is too little childcare available for under‑fives, for school holiday times and for parents who have to work unsocial hours. What childcare there is available is increasingly expensive while women’s wages have fallen in real terms. Thus many women remain trapped in the home and isolated from general society.
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.
Nevertheless most mothers do now work outside the home but the strain of juggling the work hours and caring hours creates a heavy burden, undermines their health and robs them of almost all leisure and recreational time. Modern domestic technology has not liberated women from housework and childcare burdens, simply made is just about possible for them to work full or part‑time.
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.
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 is limited and subject to stringent eligibility rules. 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.
Female genital mutilation has been outlawed and we support campaigns to raise awareness and stamp out this cruel and unnecessary practice.
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 who have been trafficked, forced or otherwise coerced into the sex industry.
Women have been disproportionately harmed by the cuts to legal aid. Now often during marriage break‑up a woman is forced to defend her case in court unaided while her former partner is able to afford an expert lawyer. These cuts also affect a woman’s ability to gain justice in domestic violence cases, in custody cases and in challenging bad benefit decisions.
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.
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:
Other measures needed include: