Financial and Monetary Systems

This is why women are bearing the brunt of the cost of living crisis, according to research

Rising food and fuel costs and tightening financial conditions have helped create the largest cost of living crisis for a generation.

Rising food and fuel costs and tightening financial conditions have helped create the largest cost of living crisis for a generation. Image: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

Emma Charlton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Women around the world are disproportionately affected by low pay and spiralling living costs, research shows. In the UK alone, women took home, on average, $696 less per month than men in 2022.
  • Women are also more likely to be in insecure work and unable to increase their working hours due to care commitments.
  • Closing gender gaps and bolstering equality is a core focus for the World Economic Forum.

If you had an extra $700 every month, what would you spend it on?

Given that it is more than 1.5 times the average family monthly food budget in the UK, you can probably think of a few things.

If you are female, this number is pretty significant. On average, women in the UK took home $696 less per month than men in 2022, up from $661 in 2021, research from the Fawcett Society shows. And while there’s long been a gender pay gap that extends to almost every country in the world, the difference is in sharp focus amid a global cost of living crisis that’s leaving women particularly exposed.

Rising food and fuel costs and tightening financial conditions have helped create the largest cost of living crisis for a generation, according to the UN, and that’s deepening gender inequality.

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While most women are affected, some groups are feeling the pinch even more. Rural women around the world tend to have the primary responsibility for the purchase and preparation of food and budget management, making them acutely vulnerable to the forces at work, the UN says.

Since women are closer to the brink already, they are hit harder as the cost of living rises. Cuts to social security and provision of public services, lower levels of savings and wealth than men, and more debt, are some of the contributory factors, according to the Women’s Budget Group.

Women are the ‘shock absorbers of poverty’

As primary care holders across many countries, women are often less able than men to increase their hours of paid work, making them the “shock absorbers of poverty,” that report says.

In the UK, women are almost twice as likely – 1.8 times – to be in insecure work than men, according to research by the Work Foundation at Lancaster University.

The global cost of living crisis is leaving women particularly exposed.
The global cost of living crisis is leaving women particularly exposed. Image: The Work Foundation at Lancaster University.

“Set against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis, falling real wages and an impending recession, we’re living in extremely challenging times for those in low-paid, insecure jobs who are struggling to make ends meet,” says Melanie Wilkes, Head of Research at the Work Foundation. “And it’s clear that women are at the very sharp end of this crisis.”

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What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

Closing the gender gap

Closing gender gaps is a core focus for the World Economic Forum, and the pathways to achieving equality are detailed in the Global Gender Gap Report 2022.

“Countries that invest in all of their human capital and make it easier for their populations to balance work and family life tend to be more prosperous,” the report says. “Countries should invest in closing gender gaps in access, resources and opportunities. With an increasingly uncertain economic outlook, unleashing the creativity and dynamism of a country’s entire human capital is critical to overcoming the current crises and accelerating a recovery.”

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Related topics:
Financial and Monetary SystemsGender InequalityFood Security
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