MORE women in Winchester have found themselves formally in debt than men, figures reveal.

The Women’s Budget Group says women are at greater risk of experiencing poverty because they carry out more unpaid work, which reduces the opportunity to generate an income.

People who take out formal insolvency measures, such as bankruptcy or a voluntary arrangement to pay off their debt, are added to the Individual Insolvency Register – meaning they are formally in debt.

Insolvency Service data shows 195 people fell into debt in Winchester in 2019.

At the latest count, the insolvency rate for women was 20.3 per 10,000 adults – higher than the rate of 19 for men.

Of those that were in debt in Winchester, 129 entered into an individual voluntary agreement with their creditors to pay off their debts, while 37 went bankrupt.

A further 29 people applied for a debt relief order, at a rate of 3.5 women per 10,000 adults compared to 2.3 men.

A debt relief order can be used by people who owe up to £20,000 and have no valuable assets. It allows those who cannot afford to pay their debt to stop paying them for a period, generally 12 months, after which the debt is written off.

Across England and Wales 121,900 people were insolvent in 2019 – equating to a rate of 27.8 insolvencies per 10,000 adults for women and 24.1 for men.

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director at the Women’s Budget Group, said: “The reason a higher proportion of women were insolvent is because women do the majority of unpaid work, which means they have less time for paid work so they earn less, own less and are more likely to be poor.

“In particular, women are 90 per cent of single parents who are particularly likely to be living in poverty.”

She added that women were more likely to have been adversely affected by the pandemic because they were at greater risk of being furloughed or working in sectors badly hit by job losses, such as high street retail and hospitality.

The charity Citizens Advice estimates that around one in seven people across the country has fallen behind on their bills during the pandemic.

A spokesman said: “The number of people Citizens Advice helps with debt is climbing as economic hardship worsens and protections for people unable to pay essential bills have weakened since the first lockdown.

“The Government should focus on council tax and rent arrears where the consequences for non-payment are most severe and the levels of debts are greatest.”