Identify the Reasons offered by Sociologists to Explain
Why Women are more at Risk of Poverty than Men.
Within Britain, there is poverty all around us. However, poverty is quite difficult to define because there is no official poverty line in Britain, and the 3 method used are: using 50-60% average income, this is difficult because there are different numbers of people within each household, therefore income may need to stretch more or less due to this. In addition to this the person(s) savings aren’t included, and this could make a difference. Those on means tested benefits, this is challenging because not everyone knows what benefits they are entitled to, while others struggle to go back to work and loose the benefits, so decide not to work, or work very limited hours. So therefore are in a continuous poverty trap. Using a basket of goods or services does not help define poverty because people(s) wants and needs differ; also, the actual list requires updating.
There are many factors to consider when explaining why the genders differ within poverty. These are: employment; segregated labour market; those who experience being poor; and lone-female households.
Women, in society’s eyes, are still assumed to be primarily carers, and financially dependant on men. This has resulted in women’s gross individual income from employment, pensions, benefits investment etc. being on average 51% lower than men’s. Throughout history, women’s paid employment history has had an M-shaped profile, meaning that there is a high level of employment, or participation, within the labour market while they are young; which is then followed by a withdrawal when women have children this leads to a staggered return to paid employment, from their mid-thirties and onwards, which is often on a part-time basis due to parental responsibilities. This then leads to a decline when they are nearing or reach retirement age. In contrast to this, men’s typical employment pattern is of continuous full-time work, therefore consequence in a much higher lifetime’s earnings, compared to women.
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Men’s and women’s lifetime earnings also differ due to in 2002 women in full-time employment had average hourly earnings to be 19% lower than men’s, also the difference to those working part-time; women had a average hourly earnings to be 41% lower than men’s. This is usually a result of domestic and childcare responsibilities; women are more likely than males to work part-time; 43% of women worker part-time compared to only 9% of men. Weekly earnings of men and women is one of the widest pay gaps within the UK due to employers not wishing to encounter additional costs, often associated with employees working over a certain number of hours, paid holidays and sick pay, and with women working relatively few hours, men, therefore, work a large number of hours thus leading to the widest pay gap in the UK.
These two points show that women are more likely to be in poverty than men because women tend to stop work, or work fewer hours than men due to parental responsibilities. This leads to men working more hours and women working less; this means that employers are less likely to provide work for women due to
The labour market is segregated by gender. Some occupational sectors have a high proportion of female employees while others dominated y male employees. Due to the gender-based segregations, it is one of the major causes of pay gap because those sectors which are dominated by women are poorly paid. In addition to this mothers of young children, particularly, face problems in finding employment which fits in with school hours and/or holiday; also the lack of affordable childcare is felt, this prevents mothers from taking the advantage of training schemes or courses which would improve their employment prospects. For example employment by occupation survey in 2002 showed that 85% of women were employed within personal advice occupations compared to 15% of men. Also the survey showed that 69% of men were employed within managers and senior officials compared to 31% of women. This demonstrates that more men are employed within the high status and paying occupations, while women work within the more caring side of employment, but are paid less.
The segregated labour market shows that women are more likely to be in poverty than men because, although women are treated more equally in society today, they are still seen as ‘inferior’ to men. Thus meaning that men are gaining most of the employment, which pays well as they can gain the training and skills etc., whereas women have a duty to their household and mainly their children (if any)? In addition to this women are paid less than men, and even though in some occupational sectors have a high proportion of women employees, they are poorly paid compared to the male dominated sectors.
Lone-female households also contribute to women being more at risk of poverty than men. This is because men’s earnings are considerably higher than women’s. Additionally to this two groups of women are most at risk of poverty are lone mothers and retired women living on their own. Within the UK over half of all lone-parent households are considered to be poor. This is because 9 out of 10 of these households’ women are the sole adult, and lone-parents are less likely to be in paid employment than couples. Reasons for this are lack of marketable qualifications this means that women from poorer backgrounds are less likely to have the appropriate qualifications; most of these women are teenage or never-married lone-mothers. Another reason is ill-health as lone parents are more likely to suffer bad health, thus causing the child(ren) to be ill and restricting their parent’s employment .Geographical location also affects lone-female households because they need to be close to schools, however the area they are in tend to have few employment opportunities. Finally low morale is a reason for why over half of the UK’s lone-parent households are ‘poor households’, because those living I severe hardship, loose or have lost, the will to gain a job or to gain the qualifications to improve their situation.
Reasons why retired women are likely to be within a ‘poor household’ is because women’s earnings are considerably lower than men’s and their m-shaped employment profile have implications on their retirement income; which is generally lower than men’s. This is because the majority of pensions are based on full contributions over a continuous working life; generally 40 years or more. Older female pensioners are less likely to have an occupational pension, and as women tend to live longer than men, they can possibly face many years on a restricted income. The difference in earnings and employment profiles between the sexes has resulted in an estimated 49% of women pensioners receiving the full basic state pension compared to 92% of men. Overall women’s average income in retirement is 53% of men’s.
This shows that women are more likely to be at risk of poverty than men because they struggle gaining a reliable and regular employment due to stress, and finding employment which fits in with school hours and holidays as they can’t afford to pay for childcare in order for them to continue to work ‘normal’ working hours. Also women in retirement suffer from poverty because of their m-shaped employment profile, which means that they can’t contribute fully to their pensions over a continuous working life (40 years or more).
Finally the experience of being poor can explain why women are more likely to be in poverty than men. This is because living on a restricted income, especially over as long period of time, can lead to stress, family issues and geographical, cultural and social isolation. During poverty, evidence has shown that women tend to carry the burden of managing the income and this can lead to added stress. Women are more likely that men to deprive themselves things in order to support their partner, husband and/or child(ren); this is known as poverty amid plenty this means that the household as a certain level of income which doesn’t make it in poverty but member(s) of that household are in poverty due to others. Also, women are more likely than men to feel isolated and depressed by lack of money. However, women have a higher likelihood of forming social networks, which can arise from their caring ‘nature’; this means that older women have better social relationships and are less isolated than men.
In conclusion, women are more likely to be in poverty than men because they are unable to continually work due to parental responsibilities. Those who are the sole earner of the household are unable to work full-time, because they need to fit in with their child(ren)’s school hours and holidays because of they can’t afford childcare and the lack of affordable childcare. Also older women living on their own are more at risk of poverty than men because they can’t gain the full basic state pension due to their m-shaped employment profile. However, because of women’s caring roles, they tend to have made social networks, meaning that those in poverty, especially retired women on their own, have better social relationships and feel less isolated than men.
By Katie Watson