Almost half of women in work would struggle to pay an unexpected bill of £100 compared to 30% of working men, a new survey has revealed.
The report, which investigates the role of women in the economy and society, also found 38% of female workers felt their job didn’t pay enough to offer a decent standard of living. The same figure for male workers was just 24%.
The research, by the Royal Society for the Arts and the Women’s Budget Group, also found 54% of women felt unable to save for retirement (37% for men).
Labour MP Jess Phillips, who sits on Westminster’s women and equalities committee, said the report challenged new prime minister Boris Johnson to take action.
“Year after year, we hear more evidence of how women are bearing the brunt of growing poverty and poor government decisions,” she said.
“The government have got to stop pretending to care and actually make changes that will end this inequality. We have got to just accepting that women will be poorer and that it is harder for them to work gainfully. The PM claimed to be a feminist, I’ll believe it when he actually changes this.”
Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the Women’s Budget Group, said the “stark truth” was that “for too many women, the economy isn’t working”.
“Women have lower incomes than men, are less likely to progress in their careers and are more likely to be living in poverty at all stages of their lives,” she said, adding: “Working class, BAME and disabled women are particularly likely to face the economic insecurity revealed in this survey.
“But it doesn’t have to be like this – we can organise the economy differently.”
The potential dangers of new technologies exacerbating existing gender divides in the workplace are also highlighted as part of the report, with the authors arguing women were suffering from in-built bias in artificial intelligence systems.
Left unchecked, “algorithmic prejudice” could become one of the new giants of modern poverty, the study warns.
Asheem Singh, director of economy at RSA, said: “Automation, gig work and artificial intelligence offer huge opportunities to enrich the human experience – but also real dangers.
“Women in particular are at risk: whether it is algorithms that filter out women from certain job adverts or a gig economy that is increasingly gendered, we need to be alive to the danger and take action. We need more women in science and coding jobs and more conversations about gender and tech in workplaces and institutions. We must avoid at all costs a world in which prejudice by algorithm is an accepted part of everyday life.”
* The survey of 2,048 British adults was carried out online by the polling company Populus.