In a time of global crisis,
As the crisis deepens, capitalism furiously seeks more and more investment and profit at the expense of the working class. In
In capitalist countries across the world, women's unemployment is a significant problem. In
The class divisions become even more stark when ethnicity is considered; black, asian and minority ethnic women work disproportionately in temporary contracts, leaving their earnings insecure. They receive less maternity pay, and are also the least likely to be able to access benefits. Not only are the poorest women insecure in their employment, they are also least likely to receive support; a double blow based on gender and class. Such contracts affect not only a woman's ability to work, but also her ability to organise - often separated from regular work with colleagues, on constantly shifting hours, she becomes further isolated in the workplace and at home.
Whether unemployed or employed, women are more likely to act as unpaid carers than men, and also more likely to work longer hours providing this care. Women therefore not only provide cheap labour that can be called or discarded at will, but they are also predominately responsible for the unpaid care of other workers, as well as those who are ill or need support that our public services cannot provide for.
Added to this, women rely more on public sector support, and accordingly the cuts affect women disproportionately - the gender audit of the budget, conducted by the Commons Library, shows that 70% of money raised from direct tax and cuts to benefits comes from female taxpayers. Men are set to pay £2.2 billion, whilst women will pay £5.8 billion. Whilst it is important that both genders face falling living standards, driven down as the government desperately try to cutback and privatise, women are the first to lose, and are set to lose the most. Whilst the issue of childcare does affect single men, and families, women are more likely to receive child tax credits, which have been cut by 10%; this means a loss of between £436 and £1,300 a year. Because of this and extremely high childcare costs, women are being forced to leave their jobs and care for their children - but without the guaranteed support network of SureStart centres and other public services.
The poorest women, more dependent on public services, will be hit the hardest. The health in pregnancy grant, and the SureStart maternity grant, aimed at keeping unemployed and low-waged mothers healthy and supported in pregnancy, have been scrapped and cut respectively. Women living in households where both partners are unemployed are seven times more likely to die in childbirth than those in employed households - and this figure was reported when the health grants were still in place. The government understands that women, who should be healthy and thriving, are dying due to poverty, yet these grants have been amongst the first to go. The privatisation of the NHS, at a time when people's health is set to deteriorate due to rising unemployment, will only worsen the situation.
From working, to pregnancy and childcare, and then into retirement women face oppression. One in five single women pensioners live in poverty. Women are now expected to work longer, and then to receive less support. Women living under the capitalist system are not just disadvantaged by the system, but are coming under increasing attack because of it. Those most vulnerable face a society that punishes rather than supports, a dual oppression of economic position and and women's role in society. 60% of sexual and domestic violence refuge services, and 72% outreach services, have no agreed funding for this year. Domestic violence is increasing as the support decreases. It is expected that, this year, over 70,000 women will not be able to access the support they need.
Similarly, those women imprisoned reveal the combined oppression of gender, class and race. The largest group of women, a third, are held for drug offences, and more women are sent to prison for handling stolen goods or theft than for any other crime. A third of women are not British citizens, held for drug-related or passport offences. Importantly, two thirds of women in prison are held on remand, and 59% of these go on to receive non-custodial sentences. Women being held in remand is significant for the life of her family and community, as 66% of women prisoners are mothers.
The problems facing women are exacerbated by each other; women's quality of life is spiralling downwards. In 2005, the Equal Opportunities Commission estimated that 30,000 women lose their jobs per year as a result of being pregnant. In 2009, agencies supporting pregnancy related redundancies reported that this figure is rising - with attacks on benefits, reductions in pregnancy support and fewer jobs, a woman will be further isolated, refused support and denied work due to their ability to bear children. It is clear how a capitalist system necessarily perpetuates gender inequalities in society, in direct opposition to the socialist understanding - as Lenin argued in 1920, 'the main task is to draw the women into socially productive labour, extricate them from "domestic slavery", free them of their stultifying and humiliating resignation to the perpetual and exclusive atmosphere of the kitchen and nursery'.
The wider effect of capitalism around the world is of course bleaker, when the effects of imperialist plunder and war are considered. As imperialist states steal the natural wealth of countries around the world, drive conflict and civil war, and as the immediate effects of global warming are felt by developing countries, women suffer as capitalism profits. Of people living worldwide on less than $1 a day, in abject poverty, 70% are women, and over 80% of the world's refugees are women. This plunder and oppression is set to worsen as imperialist countries jostle for new profits and investment.
This is why it is important to turn to the example of