“We’re all trying to do one thing: live”

Think tank: New Economics Foundation

Author(s): Beti Baraki; Lucille Harvey; Brell Wilson; Emily Mitchell

October 3, 2023

This report from UK think tank NEF looks at the impact of our social security system and how it needs to change, as told by the women who use it.

A decade of social security cuts, stagnating wages, and the erosion of public services has left millions of households living in preventable poverty, with little choice but to sink further into debt as their incomes fail to keep pace with the cost of living. As a direct result of this degradation of the welfare state, low-income households have been left inexcusably exposed to the economic crises of the early 2020s. This is particularly true of women, who continue to endure the brunt of the austerity measures placed on social security.

Engrained societal norms, from caring responsibilities to gender pay gaps, mean women are more reliant on social security; as a result of the inadequacy of rates, they are also more likely to live in persistent poverty. In the 2010s, women made up 60% of the increase in relative poverty. In the 2020s, with food bank use at an all-time high, the pandemic and cost of living crises have only intensified the experience of living in poverty.

To better understand these dynamics between everyday life and social security, we conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews to share the stories of 16 women living in poverty in Liverpool and Manchester.