Brexit Would Hurt Women Most - Yet Their Voices Are Being Drowned Out in This Campaign

24/05/2016 07:30 | Updated 24 May 2016

Women stand to lose the most if the UK votes leaves the European Union on 23 June, yet women's voices are being drowned out of the campaign. So far the debate has been dominated by grey men in grey suits trading GDP figures. The facts are critical but we also need to about the issues that affect people's everyday lives and, particularly women's hopes and aspirations for them and their families.

For instance, since the beginning of January, 48 male politicians have appeared on the Today programme, compared to only 10 female spokespersons from political parties. That means men made up 83% of all politicians appearing on the most popular daily news programme in the country.

Women's voices need to be heard, which is why Harriet Harman, Angela Eagle, Kate Green and I will today be making the case for Britain to remain in Europe on behalf of the women of Britain. Because Brexit will be worse for women than men

Let's be under no illusions - if we leave the EU there is a real risk of recession, as the treasury warned yesterday. Global economic uncertainties combined with Tory economic incompetence, from Budgets they can't make add up, to fiscal targets they can't achieve, the risk of an immediate economic fallout from Tory Brexit will be severe for British working people, particularly women.

Not only will women face the threat of losing their jobs, but they will be disproportionately hit by a further round of Tory cuts to essential public services. 86% of the economic cuts announced in George Osborne's Budgets and Autumn Statements since 2010 have fallen upon women. In plain English, if we have a Tory Brexit then we have the likelihood of more Tory cuts to come and these will hit women more than men.

Britain's prosperity is anchored in our European Union membership. Cutting that anchor loose, combined with the weakness of our economy after six years' of George Osborne's economic mismanagement, means that our economy will be in the worst possible state to withstand the kind of adverse shock Brexit could create.

And it's not just the threat of job losses and more cuts and that women would need to worry about it if we were to leave the EU, it the loss of rights that British women have been able to win because of our EU membership. Because if we were to vote to leave it'll be a Tory government still in power the day after the referendum. It'll be a Tory government pushing austerity, committed to cutting first and thinking later.

Let's be clear, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove don't want us to leave the EU to give more rights to working women, they want to roll back rights that millions of working women benefit from. For instance, there are 6.2million women working part-time in the UK. It doesn't matter if you are full-time or part-time, temporary or permanent, in-house or agency, all workers get the same rights. This is the "red tape" extreme right-wingers want to remove.

New analysis by Labour shows that the experience of the UK's key competitors outside the EU means we cannot take for granted the progress, rights and protections we enjoy through our membership of the EU if we were to leave.

The gender pay gap for women living in EU countries within the OECD is more than four percentage points lower than for women living in non-EU countries within the OECD.

Women living in EU countries within the OECD are entitled to an average of 22.5 weeks maternity leave. In contrast, women living in non-EU countries within the OECD are entitled to just under 14 weeks.

When it comes to the total length of paid maternity and parental leave, parents living in OECD countries within the EU are on average entitled to more than double what parents living in OECD countries outside the EU: 68 weeks as opposed to 32 weeks.

EU membership has offered up opportunities and rights to British women today that were denied to those before them. I am confident that opportunities and rights will only increase further if we vote to remain. That's the case I and Labour women will be making between now and 23 June across the country, because - for millions of British today, and for future generations of them to come - this referendum is too important to be left to grey men, in grey suits talking about GDP.

Seema Malhotra is the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, and the Labour MP for Feltham & Heston