UK & US

New figures show women want to stay in the EU – no surprise given our patriarchal society means theyll be the hardest hit by Brexit

author imageSophie WalkerLeader of the Women's Equality PartyMonday 3 Sep 2018 6:27 pm

The harping on by politicians of all stripes about British Jobs ignores the ones currently being done by women on low and no pay (Picture: Getty)

If theres ever a project that needs womens perspective right now, its Brexit.

The project led by Conservative male politicians nursing a grudge over losing power 25 years ago over an EU currency mechanism – with fallout known as Black Wednesday – has dragged all of us into their boys club fight about getting their own back on Europe.

The project voted on by a parliament in which men outnumber women two to one; analysed by Brexit departments in which there are 17% more male senior civil servants than women; reported on by a parliamentary press pack where men outnumber women by four to three.

The project that is in serious trouble because a so-called democratic vote failed from the outset to consider the lived experiences of the other half of the population; and for which many women gave their support as a proxy to express their disgust with representatives who had entirely failed to represent them.

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The Womens Equality Party has consistently campaigned for a feminist outcome whatever route Brexit takes, because we see this crisis as made possible by years of austerity that, while pretending immigration was to blame, was in fact targeting women.

Women funded 86% of the governments austerity savings from tax and benefit changes because the governments idea of economic growth doesnt see the unpaid, invisible labour that underpins it – nor care about those invisible womens reliance on public spending and public services, which are always the first part of the budget to be slashed.

Its an issue that neither Leave nor Remain confronted.

And in all of these scenarios women, who earn less than men, will suffer more.

Women are primary carers for children and relatives in a country where that choice is often not a choice because childcare is by some estimates the most expensive in the world.

Women are more likely to work in healthcare, childcare and in public sectors because they have been funneled from school into industries by gendered ideas of what theyre good at – to find that what women are good at is the work our society values and pays least.

Throughout the referendum, womens questions about what was next for them went unheard.

With the ongoing failure of those negotiating Brexit to address such urgent questions from the people who suffered the most from the last national crisis, I am asking party members at next weekends conference to consider backing a peoples vote.

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Let me be clear: I am not asking for a second referendum. I am asking for womens involvement in the first.

The harping on by politicians of all stripes about British Jobs from Brexit completely ignores the British jobs currently being done by women on low and no pay and the impact on them from a bad deal or no deal. There is an obsession among both the Conservatives and Labour about manufacturing, and an arrogant dismissal of those in the care and service industries.

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The Tories are now steered by the European Research Group that aims for a business-friendly bonfire of red tape (read: workers rights) to the benefit of a small number of already wealthy men. Labour prizes above all the creation of working class mens jobs via nationalisation like the holy grail of our disconnection from the EU.

The coming post-Brexit economic slowdown – economists differ only on the extent – means that mens unemployment will increase. When this happens, government will respond as successive governments always have: by investing in construction projects to create mens jobs and funding them by cuts to public sector jobs and money on which women rely.

As research by Women for a Peoples Vote shows, one million womens jobs could be affected by Brexit, as public money for the NHS, for social care, for nurses and carers, dries up still further. That same research shows that women now back remaining in the EU by a margin of 12 percentage points at 56% to 44%; compared to 51% of women voting leave in 2016.

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Other sectors that employ a majority of women, such as textiles and food, will face 5% tariffs under World Trade Organisation rules. Paying these tariffs will not just mean further cuts to public sector spending, but pressure on the sectors themselves that could lead to significant job losses as businesses come under strain.

The ensuing impact on supply chains and food prices will hit the poorest households – who spend nearly a quarter of their income on food – the hardest.

And in all of these scenarios women, who earn less than men, will suffer more.

Politicians can stop scoffing about project fear. In this country, women are already living it. Their swing to support for Remain is another swing at representatives who continue to entirely fail to represent them.

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