The Northern Ireland Women’s Budget Group (NIWBG) has sent out letters to each MLA alerting them to the group’s concerns around the ongoing cost of living crisis and its disproportionate impact on women. This impact is detailed in each letter, highlighting that women are more likely to rely on social security benefits, more likely to be in low-paid and precarious work, and have already borne the brunt of the previous decade’s austerity policies. Furthermore, a higher proportion of women earn below the living wage than men, the continued existence of the gender pay gap means women on average earn less than men, and women are more likely to be ‘economically inactive’ citing childcare and home responsibilities as the main barrier for them returning to work. In addition to outlining the preexisting impacts from systemic inequalities, it is noted that there are a multitude of ways in which this crisis will have a disproportionate impact on women and their intersecting identities.
The purpose of the letters was not only to draw the MLAs’ attention to the specific ways in which this crisis will impact women, but to ask the questions, what are you doing within your own constituency to mitigate this crisis? What is their plan in the case that an Executive is reformed before the winter months and what is their plan in the case that no Executive is formed ahead of the winter months? The lack of action on this issue has been extremely worrying and will have detrimental effects this winter, yet we hope to meet with as many representatives as we can to reinforce that immediate action is essential and to ensure that any action agreed takes into account the need for gendered approaches.
Letters to the MLAs have been sent out this week, and letters to MPs and Councillors will be sent in the coming weeks.