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From Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society:

Today’s policy announcements have made an already bad situation worse. Capping public sector pay will impact disproportionately on women who make up the bulk of the public sector workforce: this real terms decrease in take home pay will see millions of women who are already struggling to make ends meet trying to survive on tighter budgets than ever.

Freezing all but one element of the Working Tax Credit and rowing back on the increase to the child element will hit women hard, when they are already coping with the ten per cent cut in the childcare element of the credit since April . In particular, lone parents – the vast majority of whom are women – will be hit particularly hard by this move as: 36 per cent of all single parents are WTC claimants, compared to just 15 per cent of couples with children.

Plans to increase free childcare access for low earners are welcome, but it’s not clear how much effect this will have when considered against other policies that are making working life harder for parents – last year’s budget cut the childcare element of the WTC.

Today’s statement must be considered against a worsening picture for women’s employment generally – it’s already at a record 23 year high, and the Office of Budget Responsibility is now forecasting more than 700 000 jobs will go from the public sector by 2017. It’s highly likely the majority of these job cuts will come from women – they make up two thirds of the public sector workforce, and have borne the brunt of public sector jobs losses so far.

The government’s overall approach to reducing the deficit risks turning back time on women’s equality. The government urgently needs to take steps to address the attack on women’s financial security and so wider equality. Next year’s budget must include measures – such as those contained in our Life Raft for Women’s Equality – to stop any further roll back on women’s equality.”