Women, the first casualties of recession

The mothers our writer met while recording a Radio 4 programme were ‘skint’, with no cash to spare, no savings, and fears about the future

Share

Well might Karren Brady (above) exhort new mothers to get back to work quickly.

If they can afford the childcare, and deal with the accompanying mental wrench, they would perhaps be wise to do so. Because the recession is hitting women in particular, and those in work should probably not consider rocking the boat. This is not special pleading. It is simply the case.

A Radio 4 documentary I have made looks at how the so-called “squeezed middle” across the country is coping. My interviewees were not claiming poverty; in their words, they were “skint”, with no cash to spare, no savings, and fears about the future. They were indignant that it seemed to be the middle class – and its women in particular – who were suffering most.

“It is a female issue. It is a feminist issue,” says Anna, who works at a literacy development agency in Newcastle and has just adopted two small children. “It is something which curtails women’s ability to invest in their career.” Childcare costs, in particular, she feels, are a huge hindrance.

“I wonder if it’s because of the career choices we made,” says her friend Suzy, who runs a local book festival and assures me she is dressed completely in charity shop gear. “We didn’t go and work in insurance. We didn’t go and do whatever you should to get into a Proper Job, that gives you pensions and a salary.” Indeed, it would seem that “female jobs” – arty, creative, inessential – are the first casualties of a global recession.

“We are in it for the long haul,” says Anna. “All those benefits we used to enjoy are not going to be reinstated. Swimming pools, child benefits, university grants, cheaper petrol, utility bills.”

In County Durham, Caroline considers that she now leads a life of drudgery unknown by her mother and grandmother. “I was part of a generation of young women who went to university in the early 1980s. I was told I could have it all. I thought I could have a cleaner and go out occasionally.” She laughs bitterly. “Let me tell you what I do now. I make all my own bread, because it saves me £10 a week. I can save a huge amount of money by making bread, and having no cleaner, and lurking by the chuckout aisle in the Co-Op and seeing what I can do with spinach today.”

Meals out, nice food, a cleaner, beauty treatments, new clothes; things that some women might typically consume and which fuel many local economies – all of these have been abandoned. “It’s not such a hardship, but it just makes me really angry, cleaning the house,” says Helena from Winchester. “I think ‘I didn’t go to university for four years in order to do this.’ It sounds terrible, but it does make me really angry.”

Listen up, Mr Osborne. There are an awful lot of voters out there who feel this way.

‘Stories from the Squeezed Middle’ is on Radio 4 on Monday 6 May at 11am

Twitter: @Rosiemillard

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Essex

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Hertfordshire -Large Established Business

£22000 - £28000 per annum + study support, gym: Ashdown Group: A large busines...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before