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Women suffering more than men from austerity policies, finds gov’t report

Cuts and freezes on index increases to benefits such as child and home care allowances in particular have weakened equality between men and women.

Äiti lapsi sylissä katselee ikkunasta ulos.
Between 2016 and 2018, women have seen their disposable incomes fall more than men's. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Between 2016 and 2018, government’s economic programme favoured men over women, according to a new cabinet report published on Tuesday.

Cuts to and freezes on index increases in particular have weakened equality between men and women, the authors said.

The report concluded that changes to taxation and social programmes benefitted 61 percent of men compared to 54 percent of women. As a result women’s disposable incomes have seen a greater decrease compared to men’s during the period under review.

One finding was that government policies have resulted in roughly half a million people losing more than 50 euros in income every year. Some 55 percent of these economic underdogs have been women, whose disposable income declined by 0.41 percent more than their male peers’, the report said.

In 2015, the incoming government coalition led by Centre Party Prime Minister Juha Sipilä announced a raft of austerity measures aimed at reducing government debt and invigorating a sluggish economy. The programme included reducing government spending by six billion euros by freezing benefit payments, increasing some service charges and rolling back support for education and business.

Gov't failing to conduct gendered impact assessments

The study concluded that the economic disparity between men and women was especially due to cuts to and freezes on index increases on social benefits.

It added that these policies have had a significant impact on income sources such as unemployment benefits, child allowances, study grants and family home care allowances.

The writers of the report also noted that government had failed to evaluate the gender impact of legislation during the drafting stage. They added that in practice, government currently conducts no assessment of the income distribution and employment impacts of legislation.

They recommended that Finland should follow Sweden’s example and pay more attention to gender-conscious budgeting. Back in December 2016, the Children's Ombudsman had slammed the government for ignoring the impact of lawmaking on children.

In autumn last year Sipilä admitted that his administration's policies had disproportionately hurt the poor.

The report was produced by the Government Plan for Analysis, Assessment and Research for 2017.

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