According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS), the Government has only implemented 6% of its planned cuts to date. This is an austerity programme that is £10 billion behind schedule and which is set to last well beyond the next parliament. Although 6% is but a small step on a long road of enforced privation, already we can see the devastating effects this is having on millions of people.
First were the youth. Over one million 16-25 year-olds (one fifth) in Britain are now unemployed. This has been accompanied by the slashing of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) that helped children from the poorest backgrounds attend Further Education. A further barrier to education for working class youth has been the trebling of tuition fees to £9,000.
It has now been reported that the position of women is also under attack. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) published data last week showing that in the 3 months leading up to September, there was an increase of thirty-one thousand in the number of unemployed women. Female unemployment is now at a 22-year high, with over a million unemployed.
This should come as no surprise. The attacks on the public sector will have a disproportionate impact on women whose employment is concentrated in areas like education, health and social work.
When these figures were released the Government tried to emphasise that the overall unemployment figure had dropped 9,000 to 2.45 million and that 3,000 had come off unemployment benefits. David Cameron calls this a “private sector-led recovery”. However, part-time employment has jumped to a record high, meaning that the drop in unemployment in actual fact means the further casualisation of the workforce and increased exploitation of the working class. Those in full-time work fell 62,000 to 17.17 million, whilst those in part-time employment rose 142,000 to almost 8 million. These types of jobs will likely be less well paid, offer the least in benefits, are less likely to be unionised and more likely to be what bosses like to call “flexible”, i.e. with little rights for the worker when it comes to pay and conditions.
What’s more, the transference of a large section of the workforce from full-time to part-time employment does nothing to indicate a private sector-led recovery. It means a reduction of income and a further shrinking of the market, which will only feed into further private sector lay-offs.
This attack on living standards is impacting on the status of women and their children. The Metro newspaper reported on February 15th that, according to a study by parenting website ‘Netmums’, one in five mothers are regularly missing meals so that their children can eat.
The survey of over 2,000 women found that 1 in 3 have had to borrow money to make it to the end of the month, a quarter of families live on credit cards to make ends meet, and a smaller amount were turning to pawn shops, loan sharks and high street pay-day loans - legalised loan sharks - who have been shown to charge interest rates of 5,000% over the course of a year.
The French philosopher Charles Fourier said that the progress of society can be measured by the advancement of the female sex. Looking at the evidence before us, it is clear that capitalism, far from advancing society, has become a fetter on its further development.