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Women increasingly more likely than men to go financially insolvent - UK statistics

By Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent

Women are becoming increasingly more likely than men to see their finances deteriorate so badly that they become insolvent, official statistics show.

Across England and Wales in 2018, the personal insolvency rate for women was 26.6 insolvencies per 10,000 adults, while for men the rate was lower than this, at 23.3.

The Insolvency Service, which released the figures, said the difference in the rates for men and women represents a gender gap of 3.2 - widening the previous year's gender gap of 1.8.

Historically, men have been more likely than women to go insolvent - but the gap narrowed from 2009 - and by 2014 women started to have higher insolvency rates than men.

The changing trend coincided with a general decline in bankruptcies, which are often seen as the most "catastrophic" form of personal insolvency, and a growth in another official type of insolvency called debt relief orders (DROs).

DROs are aimed at people with lower amounts of debt at less than £20,000 - but no realistic prospect of paying it off.

In 2018, the rate of DROs was 7.7 per 10,000 adults for women - nearly double the rate of 4.2 per 10,000 adults for men.

Commenting on the figures, Mark Sands, chair of R3's personal insolvency committee, said: "The gender split in insolvency is a sober reminder that women are more likely to be economically disadvantaged than men; they are more likely to work part-time, or in generally lower-paid sectors.

"Women are also more prone to becoming insolvent following the breakdown of a relationship than men, as the Insolvency Service found several years ago when it looked into the reasons why people became bankrupt.

"Being a single parent also correlates strongly with financial hardship, and women make up the great majority of single parents."

Mr Sands said DROs, which were introduced a decade ago, are "a major reason why women reversed the gender gap in insolvencies".

He said: "DROs are more common than bankruptcies - albeit far less well-known - and the gender split of people entering DROs is heavily weighted towards women.

"This links back to the generally more precarious state of women's finances, as they are used for smaller debt and asset levels than other personal insolvency procedures."

The figures also show that northern areas and seaside towns are places where people are particularly likely to become financially insolvent.

Stoke-on-Trent had the highest personal insolvency rate last year, with Scarborough, Plymouth, Torbay and Blackpool also in the top 10.

Kensington and Chelsea in London and Mole Valley are the places in England and Wales where people are least likely to see their finances go bust.

Mr Sands continued: "Coastal areas often have higher rates of personal insolvency than inland areas.

"As places which often depend on an influx of tourists in the summer months for income, they are dependent on the consumer pound, which has been in shorter supply of late.

"The seasonal nature of tourism-related work makes it hard for many residents to build up savings to last them in leaner times, leaving them vulnerable to the type of economic shock that can often trigger insolvency."

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