Women’s unemployment will rise as public sector job cuts kick in

Posted: September 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

http://www.tuc.org.uk/economy/tuc-19982-f0.cfm

The TUC is concerned that women’s unemployment – already at a 23-year high – is set to rise around the UK as the government’s public sector job cuts begin to bite.

A TUC analysis of official statistics published today (Monday), reveals that the proportion of women employed in the public sector has risen at three times the rate of men over the last decade.

The share of women working as public servants in the UK has risen by three per cent over the past ten years, compared to a one per cent increase for men. The East Midlands (seven per cent), West Midlands (six per cent), the North East (five per cent) and the South East (five per cent) have seen the highest increases in the proportion of women employed in the public sector.

There are now around 735,000 more women nationally working in public service jobs such as teaching, nursing and local government than a decade ago. In England, the North East (39 per cent), the North West (37 per cent), Yorkshire and the Humber (36 per cent) and the West Midlands (36 per cent) have the highest proportions of women working in the public sector – compared to a national average for all adults of 25 per cent (and an average of just 17 per cent for men). The TUC is concerned that these figures make these areas particularly vulnerable to increased female unemployment as the government’s public sector cutbacks come into force.

In many parts of the country the public sector has led employment growth in recent years, in part as a result of the downturn. Overall increased job opportunities in the public sector in the last decade have accounted for 65 per cent of employment growth, nearly one million jobs (around 993,000). For women, the public sector has been responsible for 84 per cent of net jobs growth, whereas for men it has only created 39 per cent of net new jobs.

While the poorer rate of private sector jobs growth over the decade is partly a result of the global recession, the sharp gender divide shows the extent to which women’s rising employment rates have been linked to new public sector employment opportunities, which often provide more family-friendly workplaces than the private sector.

Public sector employment also plays an important role for men, with 17 per cent of men nationally working in the public sector and with far higher proportions employed as public servants in the North East (21 per cent).

Over the last decade there have also been large increases in the proportion of men working in the public sector in some areas of the country, with the largest rises in the North East (four per cent) and the West Midlands (three per cent).

As employment levels in the public sector have grown by 16 per cent over the last decade, employment opportunities in the private sector overall have only grown by three per cent over the same time frame, with some industries witnessing real decline and heavy job cuts.

Across the UK employment levels in manufacturing have reduced by 32 per cent, with nearly 1.5 million job losses over the decade since 2000. This has hit the proportion of men working in manufacturing particularly in the West Midlands (down 12 per cent), the North West (-11 per cent), the North East (-10 per cent) and Yorkshire and the Humber (-10 per cent). Nationally, the proportion of all adults working in manufacturing has fallen by six per cent.

The TUC argues that this illustrates the need for the government to change the direction of its economic strategy. With unemployment already close to 2.5 million the government needs to focus all its efforts on tackling the jobs gap by better supporting manufacturing, creating new, green, sustainable jobs and recognising the vital role that public sector employment plays for many families and communities.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Female unemployment is already at a 23-year high, and with so many women employed in the public sector, this will only deteriorate as job cuts in our health, education, local government and the civil service continue to mount.

‘The rising number of women in work has been a great success story of the last decade. But as childcare and child benefits are cut, vital services including education and health are pared back and women’s job losses mount we risk moving backwards and reducing, rather than improving, women’s opportunities in the workplace.

‘Cuts have started affecting the public sector, and we know the pain is already being felt in the areas where public sector employment is more concentrated.

‘Government complacency over growth is now coming back to haunt the UK and the Chancellor’s plans for job creation are woefully inadequate. The TUC is calling on the government to do far more to boost investment in the private sector, and to think again about its spending cuts. Our economy simply can’t afford to lose a decade of social progress.’

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