|Written by Cecilia Toledo|
|Monday, 15 August 2011 01:21|
|The capitalist crisis in Europe has affected the working class as a whole and one of the hardest hit sectors is women. The weight of the crisis falls on their shoulders because they make up one of the most vulnerable sections of the working class.
In Britain, because of the public service cuts, women are disproportionately affected. They are over represented in the sectors affected by the cuts and are triply burdened by the cuts in jobs, benefits and services. Many are being forced to go back into the job market and the number of women who have claimed Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) has soared to a 14 year high and continues to grow.The latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of women seeking employment has increased for the twelfth month in a row.
This could appear to be a positive sign, however the surge is a result of single mothers that are now being forced to switch from Income Support to JSA. Also, two thirds of the workforce in the public sector, especially health and education, are female and these sectors of the economy have been hit very hard by the austerity policy launched by the government.
The latest figures from the ONS show that on average 65.5% of women are employed. 13.57 million women were employed from March to May 2011 and 15.71 million men and the number of unemployed women at 7% is lower than men at 8.3%. The rate of economically inactive women is much higher than men at 29.4% that is 5.93million women against 3.4 million men. The main reason is that women look after family and home, and men in addition to reasons of study, spend more time away from work for reasons of health and depression.
The figures also show that the vast majority of women who are now claiming Job seekers Allowance seeking employment are mothers who were outside the labour market due to looking after the home and child care.Data from July last year shows that the economic crisis is forcing people to put financial problems first. About 100,000 mothers have been forced back into work since the beginning of the capitalist crisis in 2007.
Since August 2007 the number of women who stayed at home to look after the family fell to 97,000 and continues to fall. An average of 20,000 women left the home between March and May this year. Statistics show that women “have left the home,” or “exchanged home for the office”, when in reality they are doing two jobs, they are employed in precarious and part-time jobs as well as looking after the family and home.
Women job-seekers are forced to accept anything because their husbands are unemployed. Others accept anything because their husband’s salary is not enough to pay the bills at the end of the month. In many cases, the family finances have been reduced because bills have risen and the wages of the husband are frozen or reduced. Jill Kirby, director ofthe Centre for Planning (author of The Price of Parenthood), says that money exercises a dictatorship over the lives of countless families. “Women are going to the labour market in a time of great financial difficulty. But few mothers have the option of staying at home.”
Michael Connellan, the Institute for Family and Parenting, said that “mothers, including many middle class families, told us that they are having to return to work much earlier than they would like because of current financial pressures”. Headds, “The cost of raising a child is growing.” The Child Trust Fund has been abolished, tax credits for poor families with children have been cut and Child Benefit is frozen.
While the number of mothers who stay at home raising children is falling, the number of fathers who stay at home has increased by 25,000 to 213,000 since the crisis began.The situation in England, which affects the whole of Europe, shows once again that the problem of women’s subordinate status in society is not only a problem of gender inequality, it is a structural problem of capitalism,which uses and abuses the working class in times of economic decline.In times of capitalist crisis women are forced to sell their labour for a miserable price and in precarious work. As a fundamental and most oppressed section of the working class, women need to take their place in the fight against attacks by employers and government and join the massive demonstrations taking place in England and across Europe.