Are We Entering A Female Recession?
While in some countries there have been reports of a "mancession", particularly in the early days of the current economic crisis, in the UK at least we appear to be entering a female recession. Other countries making big cutbacks in public spending may face similar problems, although the UK's cuts are deeper and swifter than most.
The UK's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recently commented that the latest unemployment figures for the UK showed three quarters of those who lost jobs in the three months leading to November last year were women. It says the number of 'workless women' in the UK - those economically inactive who say they want a job plus those unemployed and actively seeking work - now stands at 2.36 million.
"This remains below the equivalent figure for men of almost 2.5 million, but the gap is set to narrow with cuts in public sector employment likely to fall far more heavily on women than men," says Dr John Philpott, Chief Economic Adviser at the CiPD "A large quarterly fall of 59,000 in the number of women employees in part-time employment is a clear sign that a 'female jobs recession' is already underway."
As Dr Philpott observes that it is the cuts in the public sector which are fueling the rise in female unemployment. The early days of the recession in the UK affected male jobs more because the sectors first affected were traditionally male ones, such as construction. However, there are concerns that job losses in the public sector will take longer to replace. Although a report by the Center of Economic and Business Research in December predicted that there will be 2.1 million job vacancies in the public sector over the next five years and that cuts in the public sector will mean more jobs in allied private sector organizations when services are outsourced, the next few years are likely to be rocky ones for women.
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One reason is that many women opted to work in the public sector because of the availability of flexible working there. Many are struggling to find that kind of flexibility in a new job. Flexible jobs are rarely advertised in the UK and current legislation means you cannot apply for flexible working until you have been in a job for six months. Women are reluctant, given the competition for jobs, to try and negotiate flexible working in an interview for an ostensibly full-time position.
A poll by Workingmums.co.uk shows that a large number of women are seeking flexible work, most of them because they are on maternity leave or a career break.