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We need a gender transformative budget in tackling the current crises

As the Scottish Government plans for an emergency budget review and Parliament undertakes pre-budget scrutiny on the 2023-24 budget SWBG Coordinator Sara Cowan reflects on what’s needed for a gender transformative budget.


The Covid-19 crisis is not over for communities across Scotland but it is being closely followed by the cost-of-living crisis. Individuals, households and communities are facing uncertain and deeply challenging times while there remains the longer term need to respond to climate change through a just transition.

This year’s Budget and the full economic levers at the Governments disposal must be utilised to mitigate the impact of these crises. To meet Government ambitions to tackle child poverty and deliver a just transition bold and quick action is needed. These crises are not separate issues but require joined up action, for example delivering home retrofitting projects at pace for those on the lowest incomes has an increased level of urgency during the cost-of-living crisis to help lower heating costs and reduce emissions.

It is clear this crisis will not impact everyone equally. Those on the lowest incomes will be hit hardest and women are more likely to experience poverty, have lower levels of savings and wealth and be less able to increase paid work than men due to caring responsibilities. Particular groups of women will be hardest hit, disabled women, women from certain ethnic minority communities, single parents, survivors of abuse and women with no recourse to public funds. As the UK Women’s Budget Group has found women are also often the shock absorbers of poverty, tending to have the main responsibility for the purchase and preparation of food for their children and families and for the management of budgets in poor households.

In February and March 2022, we ran a women's survey. This survey focused on women’s local public spending priorities. It was clear from the responses that the cost-of-living crisis was an issue of key concern. Thirty-two per cent of those who responded said they were unable to manage energy costs before the latest increase on 1 April, and concern about future rises in energy bills was already impacting on people’s household spending.

In open response questions women highlighted the stark challenges they were facing: rising energy prices for carers and those with disabilities who are unable to reduce the heating without impacting their health; covering travel expenses to care for family members outside their household; choosing between heating and eating. Numerous women also highlighted their concern that they were unable to afford any extras to cover new clothes or outings.

While the national Budget is facing pressure decisions must look at how to protect those must vulnerable to the challenges presented by the triple crisis people face.

That’s why we are calling for a gender transformative budget which prioritises:

  • Investment in social infrastructure such as care (adult social care and childcare) and those who work in these sectors;
  • Delivery of fair work principles and a real living wage focusing on women’s precarious employment;
  • Recognition and valuing of unpaid work;
  • A caring social security system that provides a genuine safety net when needed most;
  • Progressive and fair taxation to support the recovery.

All of which should be delivered with gender analysis informing decision making ensuring that the different experiences of women and men, and different groups of women inform policy and budget decisions.

The Scottish Women’s Budget Group is currently providing written evidence to several Parliamentary committees as part of the pre-budget scrutiny process. Find out more details of these in the responses on our publications page.

The UK Women's Budget Group has produced a short series of briefing papers providing gender analysis of the cost-of-living crisis.

Coming soon, the Scottish Women’s Budget Group is working with the Poverty Alliance researching the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on women on low incomes in Scotland. We will be holding events to share the results in the coming months.

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