THE number of women relying on Universal Credit while in employment is nearly two-thirds higher than for men, the Sunday National can reveal.
Reports last week highlighted that more women are in work in Scotland than ever before, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.
But figures obtained by the Sunday National show the existence of a huge gender gap when it comes to claiming Universal Credit while in employment.
Campaigners have warned that “in-work poverty” is disproportionately affecting women, who are also likely to bear the brunt of the cost of living crisis.
According to the latest statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions, in August this year, 109,668 working women were claiming the benefit – up nearly 5% from 104,618 in the same month the previous year.
In contrast, employed men claiming Universal Credit has fallen by just over 9%, from 73,412 in August 2021 to 66,417 this year.
The figures mean that there are around 43,250 more women having to rely on the benefit while employed than men.
Yet there is far less of a gap when it comes to claiming Universal Credit while not in work, with 140,916 men and 145,344 women in Scotland according to the latest figures for August 2022.
It was reported last week that a total of 74.9% of women aged 16-64 in Scotland are currently employed, the highest since the ONS Labour Force Statistics figures began in 1992.
However, Alys Mumford of equality organisation Engender said: “Headline figures can be deceiving, and it’s really important that we scrutinise statistics which claim to celebrate women’s employment.
“In reality, in-work poverty is disproportionately experienced by women, who are the majority of those in temporary work and on zero-hours contracts in Scotland.
“In addition, black and minority ethnic women are almost twice as likely to be in insecure work as white women, meaning they are disproportionately exposed to worry about reduced hours, unemployment or underemployment associated with precarious work.”
State pensions and benefits delivered by the UK Government will be uprated by 3.1% from April 2023, in line with the increase in the consumer prices index – but there are calls to introduce a rise in line with the higher rate of inflation instead.
Mumford added: “As with the crises of austerity and the Covid-19 pandemic, women will bear the brunt as costs rise, businesses begin to struggle with rising overheads, and further economic shocks exacerbate inequality.
“While the uprating of social security payments has been welcome, rocketing inflation means that, in reality, this now equates to a cut to benefit payments which will hit women hardest.”
Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the UK Women’s Budget Group, a not-for-profit organisation that monitors the impact of government policies, said it was not a surprise there are so many more women than men in Scotland who are in paid work while claiming Universal Credit.
“Women suffer from both a pay gap, earning less per hour than men and an earnings gap, earning less per week,” she said.
“The earnings gap is largely a result of caring responsibilities – across the UK, women do 60% more unpaid work than men, mainly care work, which leaves less time for paid work.
“This means women earn less and are more likely to depend on social security for a larger proportion of their income.”
Stephenson said the issue was also compounded by the poor provision and “incredibly high costs” of childcare.
“Jobs that offer the flexibility to work around care are limited and often poorly paid,” she added.
“This leaves many women reliant on Universal Credit even while in work and is a big contributor to child poverty.”
The DWP said it was unable to comment, as there could be a host of reasons for the gap, including more women than men being the main carers for children, therefore working fewer hours or part-time and topping up their earnings with the benefit.