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Gender and Poverty

Gender and Poverty

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Published by Oxfam
There are clear links between gender and poverty in the UK today. Higher numbers of women than men live in poverty. Women are also more likely to experience both persistent poverty and hidden poverty.
There are clear links between gender and poverty in the UK today. Higher numbers of women than men live in poverty. Women are also more likely to experience both persistent poverty and hidden poverty.

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Published by: Oxfam on Apr 12, 2011
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Gender andPoverty
By Gemma Rosenblattand Katherine RakeSupported byand
1. The gender dimension of poverty
There are clear links between gender and poverty in the UKtoday. Higher numbers of women than men live in poverty.Women are also more likely to experience both persistentpoverty and hidden poverty.Men's risk of poverty is mostly connected to their exclusionfrom the labour market, whether due to low skills, previousunemployment or a lack of regional job opportunities.Stereotyping in the labour market may also lead men toreject the only employment available if it is identified astraditional ‘women's work’. Labour market exclusion is alsoa route into poverty for women, but they face the additionalrisks of lower wages, less access to promotion andoccupational segregation. For women, occupationalsegregation leads to low-paid and insecure employmentthat can be fitted around domestic responsibilities.As well as labour market exclusion, women's poverty isclosely linked to their family status and caring roles. Womenheading their own households, especially lone mothers andsingle pensioners, have the highest risk of poverty. And,since the majority of caring remains unpaid, women'scaring roles have a major impact on women's economicstatus. In addition, the true extent of women's poverty maybe hidden by household measurements of poverty thatoverlook differences in individual control over resources.Women and men from Black and Minority Ethniccommunities have a higher risk of poverty than the whitepopulation. For women, the combined impact of sexismand racism is often severe. Black and Afro-Caribbeanwomen make up a relatively high proportion of loneparents, while low pay and the low economic activity rate ofBangladeshi and Pakistani women, coupled with largefamilies, result in high poverty levels.In later life the full impact of women's responsibilities andlower earning power is seen in poor pension entitlements.This is compounded by women's greater longevity andtheir increased risk of living alone at this stage in their lives.
2. Reasons for poverty and forhidden poverty
Currently in the UK, a variety of factors in both the publicand private sphere result in the high incidence of povertyamongst women. While some factors, such as the genderpay gap and occupational segregation, are well-known,they do not reveal the full extent of the
gender incomegap
. In 2000-01 the hourly pay gap for full-time workerswas 19 per cent (in other words, women working full timeearn 81 pence for every pound earnt by a man working fulltime); but the weekly earnings gap between women andmen was 25 per cent and the annual gender income gapwas 49 per cent.
a) Poverty within the labour market
Women are less likely than men to secure an adequateincome in paid work. This means that employment doesnot offer women automatic protection against poverty.
gender pay gap
between full-time hourly earningsfor women and men is 19 per cent,
and 59 per centwhen women's part-time hourly earnings are comparedwith men's full-time hourly earnings.
16-1920-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-6465-6970-7475-7980-8485 and over
 (2001/2 prices)
All menAll women
Median individual income by age for all womenand all men, 2001/02
Source: Women and Equality Unit, Individual Incomes of Men and Women 1996/97- 2000/01, (DTI; London, 2003)
40 per cent of women (compared to less than 20 percent of men) have incomes of less than £100 perweek.
25 per cent of women live in poverty.
22 per cent of women and 14 per cent of men have apersistent low income.
In 2001-02, average individual income per week was£208 for women and £386 for men.
Between 1997 and 2002, women's (weekly medianindividual) income as a proportion of men's rose from46 per cent to 50 per cent.
For 30 per cent of women (and 16 per cent of men),benefits and tax credits make up at least three-quarters of their income.
mother gap
refers to the penalty in the earnings ofmothers, when compared to women without children.Britain has a large mother gap by international standardsand the effects are particularly severe for teenage mothersand low skilled women.
"We have no-one to look after the children, and so half our wages would have to pay the childcare costs... It’s not worth going to work." 
44 per cent of women currently in employment work part-time
, and most women work
at some point intheir lifetime. This work is generally low status, insecureand temporary and has fewer occupational protectionsand benefits. With projected labour market growth for theUK in this area, the problem of guaranteeing women a
living wage
is growing.
Although not the case for all women in the UK, some groupsof women are particularly vulnerable to
. Forexample, only 15 per cent of female refugees, compared to42 per cent of male refugees, are in paid employment.
Occupational segregation
continues. Female dominatedoccupations tend to be low paid and undervalued. Womenoften work in these jobs, despite low pay, because theyneed flexible working hours and practices.
Absence from the labour market
due to caring anddomestic labour lead in the short-term to a lack of cashand financial resources. Over the lifetime the impact ofcaring is felt through a reduced opportunity to developskills and build up assets, such as pensions.
b) Poverty within households
The most commonly used measurement of poverty treatsall individuals as equal recipients of income coming intothe household, regardless of who receives or controls thismoney. This masks the true extent of poverty, ignoringboth unequal distributions within households, and thedifferent circumstances or obligations that individualshave.
The household works as a
black box
: we know what goesinto the household but it is difficult to know the extent ofredistribution among family members. However, researchsuggests that bringing money into the household brings asense of entitlement and women have a bigger say in howmoney is spent where they bring in a higher share ofhousehold income.
"I'm probably a bit more careful because he does earn more, do you know what I mean, it seems ok for him to spend his money on himself." 
The personal income of partnered women with children isjust 34 per cent of the income of equivalent males.
Thiscan result in poverty for women living within householdseven if the household income is above the poverty line.
Women act as buffers in poor households. Research showsthat women often deny themselves basics, such as food, inorder to protect their children and/or partner from theconsequences of poverty. Women living in households withan income below the poverty line may therefore experiencea more severe poverty than other family members.
"You make sure your husband gets a good meal and your kids get a good meal - and you'll have a sandwich. You think, 'He's been at work all day,I've got to give him a good meal.'" 
Women also take on financial management withinhouseholds on a low income, but without necessarilyhaving control over resources. This can be a source ofconflict and can force women into making stark choices.
Hourlypay gap(full-timeworkers)WeeklyearningsgapAnnualgenderincomegap
0 10 20 30 40 505 15 25 35 45
Gender gaps in earnings and income
Source: Equal Opportunities Commission, Women and Men in Britain: Pay and Income (EOC; Manchester, 2003)

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