Rising Concern over Women's Unemployment

Lesley Brennan

19 March 2013

There are just 300 more men unemployed in Dundee than women , according to estimates derived from the official Annual Population Survey, and the gap between the male rate of unemployment and the female rate is now just over 1 per cent.

The figures below illustrate recent movements in numbers and rates in the city in both female and male unemployment .

While these figures have to interpreted with caution, the trend across Scotland and the UK shows why unemployment amongst women has become a matter of rising concern.

Women make up by far the majority of public sector workers, and so they have borne the brunt of redundancies as public spending cuts have mounted.

As an example, in the period 2010-11 in the public sector, Dundee City Council alone shed 700 jobs (headcount), a decision which would have impacted  disproportionately on women, according to national trends.

UK Government policy proclaimed that the reduction of the number of jobs in the public sector would be the spur that would lead to economic recovery as the private sector created more jobs.

What happened instead was that in the private sector in Dundee, the number of jobs fell by 1,100 in that period,  a drop of 2.5 per cent

Even if perceptible growth does materialise in the private sector, women face a triple problem.

The first is that the private sector lags behind the public sector in the provision of work schedules that accommodate the family responsibilities of working mothers.

The second part is the cuts in childcare support

The third part is the public-private sector pay gap for women.

The Office of National Statistics explains thus :

“Female employees in the public sector earn considerably more, on average, than female employees in the private sector.

 “This is due to the different jobs that are typically carried out by women in the public and private sectors. 

“In the private sector a significant proportion of low paid jobs, such as cleaning and catering, are carried out by women.

“In the public sector, while women still perform lower paid jobs, such as caring and clerical work, there are also a high proportion of women employed in professional, higher paid occupations, such as nursing or teaching.” 

At the other end of the working-age spectrum, are those women aged 50 and over struggling to find employment.

In Dundee there are currently 220 such unemployed women, a rise of 45 in three years.

The level of their future pension is a major concern as it depends on their contribution to it from earnings and on their ability to make good contributions lost in periods of joblessness. 

Unless there are radical changes in UK government policy,  women‘s work opportunities will remain scarce.

The cuts in public spending have made it difficult to get jobs with a traditional female employer such as the public sector. 

The health of the private sector is conditional on a steady supply of work from the public sector.

Together, both sectors are losing the benefits that able, experienced female staff bring to a job.


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