We aim to make our website as accessible as possible. However if you use a screen reader and require debt advice you may find it easier to phone us instead. Our phone number is 0 8 0 0 1 3 8 1 1 1 1. Freephone (including all mobiles).

Bearing the burden

Unravelling women’s debt dilemma

Download the report

Today marks the launch of our new report – Bearing the burden: Unravelling women’s debt dilemma.

This provides a deep dive into women experiencing financial difficulty to show how the gendered picture of debt differs.

About the report

In the past few years, there have been periods of economic uncertainty for households in the UK, which have left many people across the country financially vulnerable, irrespective of gender.

However, our research suggests these economic challenges have taken a disproportionately negative toll on women. Below we have outlined some of the many key findings from our report.

Key findings

1) Cost of living pressures intensify

Recent data from StepChange shows a notable uptick in the proportion of women seeking debt advice, from 60% in the first half of 2021 to 64% in 2023. This uptick has coincided with a staggering 28% of women citing a ‘cost of living increase’ as their main reason for debt in 2023 – this is substantially higher than the proportion of men citing this reason.

2) Women are struggling to keep up with the essentials

Our data also shows that women have lower incomes and higher expenditure levels, when compared to men.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that a higher proportion of women are also in arrears across all household bills, and found themselves struggling to keep up with energy, council tax, and water bills most notably.

  All Women Men
Average income £1,623 £1,597 £1,655
Average expenditure £1,598 £1,625 £1,608

3) Single parenthood poses many challenges for women

StepChange 2023 data shows that women are four times more likely than men to be single parents, heading around nine in ten (88%) single parent households.

Women also spend more, and a higher proportion of their income on childcare than men, despite the average number of children being two. We also see single mums spending more on energy bills and food which underscores the added financial strain they bear.

graph shows that 88% of single parents among our clients are women

What’s next?

Bearing the burden: Unravelling women’s debt dilemma highlights some of the many challenges women face when dealing with their debt and finances.

We hope this serves as a starting point for further research and discussions to unravel the intricate web of financial difficulties faced by women and to continue work towards more equitable and sustainable solutions to address these.

Download the report

Want more information?

Email us to discuss our Bearing the burden: Unravelling women’s debt dilemma report at policy@stepchange.org