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Within Household Inequalities and Public Policy F ran Bennett (University of Oxford) Gender Equality Network/EHRC seminar 23 May 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Within Household Inequalities and Public Policy F ran Bennett (University of Oxford) Gender Equality Network/EHRC seminar 23 May 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Within Household Inequalities and Public Policy F ran Bennett (University of Oxford) Gender Equality Network/EHRC seminar 23 May 2008

2 Research project ESRC funded Gender Equality Network ( – Project Within Household Inequalities and Public Policy: Fran Bennett, Sue Himmelweit, Holly Sutherland, Sirin Sung, Jerome de Henau Qualitative, quantitative and policy simulation elements

3 Overview of project The family is a key site of distribution (of resources, time and labour) (Daly and Rake, 2003, Lister, 2005) - but is often a black box which is not investigated and in which equality is assumed. Aims: To explore alternative approaches to understanding the behavioural and distributional impact of policy change which take account of gender inequalities in power and influence in the household To use such approaches to analyse the effects of actual and potential changes in fiscal, social security and associated labour market policies

4 Relevant policy developments Separation of tax credits into WTC for earner(?) and CTC for main carer Joint claims for JSA: new duties, no benefit Abolition of most working age dependants increases (except in means-tested benefits) More change in womens relations with state - but action on claimants partners ceased? + work-focused interviews for carers halted

5 Obstacles to gender awareness Family: unitary household view Time: analysis of household at one point, not individuals over lifecycle - eg workless/ work-rich versus work-poor (households) + family-friendly tax (meaning 1 vs 2 earners) Benefits: seen as primarily for household need, rather than social protection over lifetime or individual citizenship rights

6 Government views Net tax rate for families - but income tax and NI contributions are individually based Highlights redistribution to women – but largely for others; and amounts, not roles/ relationships/resources (Daly & Rake, 2003) Tension between individualisation in labour market policies and joint assessment/joint ownership in benefits and tax credits?

7 Gender and money issues From previous research, we know that it is not just how much income comes into the household which may be important but also: - where income is from (source) - why it is being paid (purpose) - who receives it (recipient) - what it is called (labelling) and - how it is managed and controlled

8 Qualitative research: overview Aim: to identify policy-relevant factors influencing gendered division of power Qualitative research: -uncover within-household processes -identify indicators of intra-household division of power and wellbeing -explore gendered impact of recent and potential policy changes

9 Qualitative research: sample Semi-structured, separate interviews with people in 30 low/moderate income couples Sample from BHPS/ECHP (booster) Heterosexual couples, mostly both of working age, had children at some point In England, Wales, Scotland (not N Ireland) If possible, in receipt of means-tested benefits/tax credits, now and/or in past

10 Unitary household ? Drivers to jointness strong in our sample: - virtually all were married (many remarried) - all had had children at some point - living on low/moderate income Expressed loyalty to couple/family found (all in one pot, no yours and mine, you never dream by yourself) Joint account symbolic of togetherness (but in practice, degree of jointness varied)

11 Benefits/tax credits Speculative questions often difficult Issues of payee/ownership harder to disentangle than envisaged Insistence that many benefits/tax credits belonged to/were for family Lifecycle individual perspective lacking So were gender and money issues from previous research irrelevant?

12 Income: source and purpose Different sources affect sense of entitlement Money in own right meaningless to many men; but not having to ask key for women Women aware of individual/family tensions Contradictory statements by men/women eg joint claim for TC right; WTC belongs to him Commonly mans wage into joint account, benefit(s)/tax credits into womans

13 Income: recipient and label Contributions may give sense of ownership Joint claims/ownership not seen as problem - but frustration about joint assessment? Carers allowance and disability benefits can give (degree of) autonomy/voice Benefits could be seen as contribution Virtually no questioning of child benefit Main carer (for child tax credit) resented

14 Income: management/control Not just what/where from but how handled Knowledge of family income was gendered Traditional gender roles key (pocket money for man, Im bills shes food) – but may coexist with strong desire for independence Timing of payments important (changing) Deprivation for women due to both managing role & desire for independence?

15 Goals and policy dilemmas How to protect those in traditional roles whilst not solidifying gender roles? How to ensure individual income whilst not undermining move to paid work? How to move towards autonomy whilst not assuming it has been achieved? To what extent to share caring more in society or between men and women?

16 Potential policy directions? Emphasise societal support for caring and maintain benefits to meet costs (otherwise likely to be burden on women) Instead of extra support to one partner in couple investigate situation of other partner Extend social protection for individuals Support gender role sharing Consider wider households not just families

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