Little to celebrate in UK on International Women's Day

Woman protesting against cuts

Equality drive has gone into reverse as women pay the price for government's policies, say columnists

LAST UPDATED AT 13:10 ON Thu 8 Mar 2012

AS DAVID CAMERON marks International Women's Day with a reception at Number 10, Polly Toynbee and other female columnists warn that his policies have, for the first time in living memory, put the equality drive into reverse.
 
It is women who are paying the heaviest price for government policies, says Toynbee in The Guardian. The pay gap between men and women's pay has narrowed year on year to 15.5 per cent, but she predicts it will begin to widen as more women lose public sector jobs where pay has been more equal.
 
Of the 710,000 public sector redundancies expected before 2017, 65 per cent are likely to be female. The number of unemployed women is at a 25-year high after twice the number of women than men lost their jobs in the last three months of 2011.
 
Planned cuts in childcare benefits and legal aid, which Toynbee says would leave many wives "powerless" in divorce disputes, might help to explain why the latest stats from Ipsos Mori show that women's support for Cameron and his government is waning.
 
Allison Pearson conjures up her perfect International Women's Day for The Daily Telegraph readers, in which Cameron has a change of heart on his latest policies (and then George Clooney whisks her away in a Maserati).
 
"I have realised that the plan to remove child benefit from those earning over £43,000 is both unworkable and terrifically unfair," imaginary Dave tells Pearson, before realising that the cut is "a slap in the face for every woman who has given up work to take care of her children".
 
But the real Cameron is yet to reverse such policies and, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies warns, only 12 per cent of the government's planned austerity cuts have happened – so the worst for women is yet to come.
 
One thing we can celebrate today though, says Anna Bird, acting chief executive of the Fawcett Society, is the increasing number of women and men who are joining the fight for greater equality.
 
The coming year will see times get even tougher, says Bird, but "expect to see more anger, and that female fighting spirit in spades". · 

Disqus - noscript

All good things must come to an end

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.