THE BLOG

Britain's BAME Women Should Not Bear The Brunt Of Economic Cuts

06/03/2017 16:48 | Updated 07 March 2017
Peter Nicholls / Reuters

all women everywhere

The economic discrimination suffered by Black and Minority Ethnic Women (BAME) is an intolerable, yet sadly tolerated, reality of British life.

From subconscious judgment of their names on applications, to the pay they can expect to receive, BAME women face hurdles to workplace equality that should have been consigned to history. This year's budget is an opportunity for the Government to be frank about past failures and to set about creating a fairer future for all.

For women who suffer the double-dose of discrimination, the consequences of those failures are hardly a new phenomenon.

Research published by the Runnymede Trust and the Women's Budget Group, and the results of numerous inquiries by the House of Common's Women and Equalities Committee, have underlined the scale of inequality begging to be addressed.

In many cases, Government policy has been actively harmful, rather than supportive in confronting the issues.

A key finding has been that BAME women in all income groups are hit the hardest by the Government's austerity programme. As of the last autumn statement, 86% of Treasury net 'savings' through tax and benefit measures since 2010 had come from women, with BAME women losing the greatest proportion of their individual income.

The overrepresentation of BAME women in the public sector is an oft-cited excuse, but the fact this specific workforce is concentrated in such a way simply renders the Government's lack of regard as inexcusable.

When accumulating losses in benefits, tax credits, and the value of cuts to public services, this Government's direction of travel means that BAME women stand to lose a further 11.5 per cent of their earnings by 2020. Though others will lose out, there seems to be a dearth of meaningful responses to the disproportionate losses incurred by women from Black African and South Asian backgrounds.

Of course, within BAME communities these losses are not uniform. By analysing the Labour Force Survey, the Fawcett Society today have highlighted progress in closing the pay gap for certain groups. Indian women have seen the pay gap with white British men decrease by 20 per cent since the 1990s and Chinese women have even reversed the gap in its entirety.

Less positively, the research calculated that Black African women have seen virtually no progress since the 1990s, with a full-time pay gap of 21.4 per cent in the 1990s and 19.6 per cent today. It also showed that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women experience the largest pay gap, standing at 26 per cent.

Any progress is to be celebrated, not least by all the campaigners who have fought so hard to make it happen. However, now is the time to cement advances that have been made and to act with the necessary urgency to ensure the gender pay gap becomes a conversation of the past.

In a recent exchange, Conservative Minister David Gauke urged 'caution' when approaching these issues. Indeed, we need to be cautious that these trends do not worsen due to fiscal measures taken during the Chancellor's budget this Wednesday.

Labour is committed to overturning a rigged economic system that sees women bearing the brunt of failed austerity. As such, we are also committed to producing a gender impact analysis alongside all of our financial statements in government and last week announced a 12 month consultation on a new Economic Equality Bill to address issues such as the gender pay gap, chronic low pay in sectors dominated by women and the disproportionate economic impact BAME women have had to shoulder.

It was a Labour Government who introduced legislative protections for women under the Equal Pay Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equality Act. Labour were the first administration since the Second World War to accept state responsibility for developing childcare policy, and we introduced paternity leave and increased maternity leave.

Labour will make clear throughout the budget process that that we expect the government to structurally enable and promote economic equality for all women.

If Theresa May is serious about her government building "a Britain that works for everyone", a good first step would be ensuring that all new policies are implemented with full regard for black and minority ethnic women, instead of leaving those who are already struggling even worse off.

Sarah Champion is the shadow secretary of state for women and equalities and Labour MP for Rotherham

Tulip Siddiq is the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today

Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com

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