State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in other areas of economic and social life in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular:
(a) The right to family benefits;
(b) The right to bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit;
(c) The right to participate in recreational activities, sports and all aspects of cultural life. Put more simply, Social and Economic rights gives assurances that every person has the funds to meet their needs and have opportunity to expand their community circle and gain skills and knowledge

CEDAW, Article 13

In what way is this article relevant and important to women’s rights and women’s organisations in the UK?

When looking at Social and Economic Rights, we must consider the ways in which women face discrimination and therefore barriers to having these rights fulfilled. Particularly:

  • Women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence
  • Refugee and asylum seeking women and their access to benefits, financial credit and to cultural life in the UK
  • Black and minoritised women
  • Disabled women
  • Women who have experienced financial abuse
  • Women with no recourse to public funds (social security or housing)
  • Women at work – as we are more likely to be engaged in informal, temporary or precarious forms of employment, including employment with zero-hours contracts
  • Women who are care givers
  • Women who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and how this affects their ability to work
  • Women who require flexible working environments for reasons including childcare responsibilities

What does the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women say?

In the 2019 CEDAW concluding observations, the Committee makes specific reference to socioeconomic inequalities that see women disproportionately impacted by austerity measures.

Here are some of the Committee’s concerns:

The Committee is concerned about:

  • the disproportionately negative impact of austerity measures on women, who constitute the vast majority of single parents and are more likely to be engaged in informal, temporary or precarious forms of employment.
  • that austerity measures have resulted in cuts in funding to organizations that provide social services to women, including those that provide services for women only
  • budget cuts in the public sector, where more women are employed than men
  • reductions in social care services increase the burden on primary caregivers, who are disproportionately women.
  • The offshore tax regimes in the overseas territories and Crown dependencies continue to enable multinational companies and wealthy individuals, as well as criminal organizations, to avoid paying taxes, leading to significant losses of revenue that could be utilized for public services for women.
  • the payment of the universal credit, which consolidates six separate income-related benefits, into a single bank account under the universal credit system risks depriving women in abusive relationships of the ability to gain access to necessary funds and trapping them in situations of poverty and violence.
  • two-child tax credit limit, except in certain circumstances such as rape, which has a perverse and disproportionate impact on women.
  • the increase in the State pension age for women from 60 to 66, following several legislative changes, that has affected the pension entitlements of women born in the 1950s and is contributing to poverty, homelessness and financial hardships among the affected women.

And their recommendations:

  • Bring into force the provisions of the Equality Act relating to the public sector duty* regarding socioeconomic inequalities (sections 1 to 3 of the Act) and “combined discrimination” (section 14 of the Act);
  • The Committee recommends that the State party undertake a comprehensive assessment on the impact of austerity measures on the rights of women and adopt measures to mitigate and remedy the negative consequences without delay;
  • Ensure that women in abusive situations are able to independently gain access to payments under the universal credit system;
  • Repeal the two-child tax credit limit;
  • Take effective measures to ensure that the increase in the State pension age from 60 to 66 does not have a discriminatory impact on women born in the 1950s;

*The public sector equality duty is a duty on public authorities to consider or think about how their policies or decisions affect people who are protected under the Equality Act. Private organisations and individuals don’t have to comply with the duty

How can women’s organisations (and other relevant organisations) use this article to influence change for women in the UK?

We can use Article 13 to make the case for women’s social and economic empowerment by reinforcing to policy and decision makers  that it is intersecting disadvantages and discriminatory practices and policies that are inhibiting women's access to social and economic rights. We can show how women’s Social and Economic rights aren’t being protected or fulfilled under CEDAW within systems such as Universal Credit, uncertain employment contracts and housing provisions.


Hannah Coombes, Administration & Finance Officer at Women's Resource Centre 

Contact Hannah