Women are more likely to experience persistent poverty

More than one fifth of women, 22 per cent, have a persistent low income, compared to approximately 14 per cent of men. Living in persistent poverty denies women the opportunity to build up savings and assets to fall back on in times of hardship. This effect accumulates for older women which can result in extensive poverty.

For men, economic inactivity is a major route into poverty. This is also true for women, but women face additional poverty risks as a result of their lower earning power, caring responsibilities and changing family structure.

When exploring issues of female poverty you might want to focus on the impact of funding cuts to public services and welfare benefits. Current moves to reduce the deficit have left women facing a ‘triple jeopardy' of slashed benefits, job cuts, and a reduction in the core public services that they rely on for themselves and those they care for.

Black and Minority Ethnic women experience considerably higher rates of poverty than white women in the UK. The 2005 Fawcett Society's report, on Black and Minority Ethnic Women in the UK, highlighted that the incidence of poverty varies greatly between different ethnic groups and is greatest for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women. A number of intersecting factors contributing to women's poverty help explain why BME women are particularly vulnerable:

  • lower pay;
  • higher rates of unemployment and economic inactivity;
  • likelihood of being a single parent;
  • likelihood of having a large family.

There is a strong link between female poverty and child poverty. In their report "Gender and Poverty" the Fawcett Society state that women's poverty is closely linked to their family status and caring roles with women heading their own households, especially lone mothers, at a greater risk of experiencing poverty.

2009 figures produced for the Department of Work & Pensions reveal that 52 per cent of children living in single parent families are poor.

Working mothers are more likely than fathers to be in low paid jobs. Figures from the Fawcett Society show that 64 per cent of the lowest paid workers are women, contributing not only to women's poverty but to the poverty of their children

  • There are almost four times as many women in part-time work as men. Part-time workers are likely to receive lower hourly rates of pay than full-time workers.
  • Nine out of ten lone parents are women. The median gross weekly pay for male single parents is £346, while for female single parents it is £194.40

The NEU believes that tackling female poverty should be a key part of any strategy aimed at ending child poverty.

Resources on Women and Poverty

Video resources to support teaching of UK poverty and inequality issues

The Women's Budget Group (WBG)