Universal credit: the gender impact

Issue 140 (Autumn 2011)

The government’s plans to introduce a new universal credit are intended to improve work incentives and simplify a complex benefits system, but may work against its duty to promote gender equality. Here, Fran Bennett, drawing on work for the Women’s Budget Group, looks at the impact the new benefit may have on gender issues, in particular on financial autonomy for women. She argues that the proposals take insufficient account of the nature of modern families and the lives of those on low incomes and so may undermine some of the government’s other policy goals (including encouraging committed couple relationships and tackling child poverty), and may also result in greater economic dependence and threaten the return of a ‘single breadwinner’ family.