Monday, January 22, 2018

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jim Hightower writes about the importance of a popular movement to build the policy foundation for middle- and working-class prosperity. And Doug Henwood notes that the U.S. union movement managed to hold its ground in 2017.

- Ellie May MacDonald points out how austerity imposes a disproportionate burden on women:
Firstly, austerity measures are likely to decrease the ability of women to gain employment – the most effective route out of poverty. Changes to Universal Credit provide greater incentives for single-earner households and penalise two-earner households through benefit reductions. Women, more often the ‘second earner’, will face disincentives to work. The cuts to the public sector (in terms of both jobs and the real value of earnings) harm women more than men, since around two-thirds of the public-sector workforce is female. 73 per cent of those that are affected by the public sector pay freeze were women, according to the Women’s Budget Group. The continuation of these cuts will decrease the incomes of many women or deplete them altogether.

Secondly, the welfare state cuts have unacceptable consequences for women. Women are more dependent than men upon the welfare state; care responsibilities prevent many from entering employment and earning an independent income. Even within employment, women may suffer in-work poverty because they are only able to maintain part-time, low-paid jobs whilst caring for dependents.
Thirdly, Universal Credit is changing the structure of the family – to the detriment of mothers. Universal Credit creates incentives for single-earner ‘breadwinner’ households, due to the withdrawal of benefits from two-earner households. Furthermore, UC is paid in one lump-sum into one bank account (usually the primary earner’s). These measures are likely to increase incidences of households with one primary earner and a partner that is either a second earner or not earning. Women are much more likely than men to be the latter, increasing their dependence upon their male partners.

Dependence upon the income of a partner has two effects. Firstly, it may leave some women without sufficient resources to meet their minimum needs. Breadwinner ideology can affect who accesses resources within the household, because it can reduce women’s bargaining power if they are not seen to be contributing to the household income. Secondly, it is likely to increase the risk of future poverty, since economic dependence means that an individual’s continued economic stability and wellbeing depends on two conditions: their partners keeping their income, and their families staying together. Dependency reduces the ability of women to get a source of stable income after separation (either through a good job or from a pension), whilst also leaving her with fewer assets and wealth.
The problem of poverty should be the priority of policy makers, not only for those focused on social injustice but also for those seeking economic benefits. The cost of increased spending on public services, particularly child care services, is likely to be mitigated by the increased economic activity. In 2011, the IPPR published a report making the economic case for universal childcare: on the basis of their cost-benefit analysis, they show that universal childcare pays a return of £20,050 over four years to the government.

The government is not doing enough to combat the entrenched nature of women’s poverty. This is either through ignorance – since official statistics conceal the true extent of this poverty – or because neither women nor poverty are the priority of policymakers in a time of austerity. The current government should be held to account for this injustice, particularly given that the Equality Act of 2006 provides the legitimate grounds to do so. This is a legal obligation to pay ‘due regard’ to gender equality when making decisions relating to spending plans. This requires a long-standing commitment to social change, not quick-fix measures that improve poverty rates in the short-term.
- Gary Mason comments on the unacceptable abandonment of Sears' workers, as people who dedicated decades to their employer saw their pensions siphoned off by corporate profiteers. Jesse McLaren and Kate Hayman discuss how the treatment of workers by Tim Hortons franchises is antithetical to their health and welfare. And Talia Jane shares her story of seeing her career derailed for the crime of trying to seek out fair pay.

- Stewart Smyth writes that the only way to get housing policy right is to prioritize the availability of homes over the use of housing as a means to accumulate wealth. And William Rees discusses the role international capital has played in shifting us in the wrong direction. 

- Finally, Luisa D'Amato points out how Justin Trudeau is now insulting Canadians in trying to excuse his own broken promise of a fair electoral system.

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