Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Recession Report No. 16

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The TUC’s last Recession Report was published yesterday and can be accessed via Nicola Smith’s post over at ToUChstone. The topical theme of this issue, in the week that saw International Women’s Day and the TUC’s 2010 Women’s Conference, as well as the launch of a specific TUC report on Women and the Recession, is the impact of the recession on working women. Inevitably, there is a degree of overlap between the two reports.

The headline labour market stats are that 2.457m people are out of work (more or less unchanged on the month and the quarter, but 448,000 up on the year), representing an unemployment rate of 7.8% (again, unchanged on the month and quarter but up by 1.4 percentage points on the year). Some 28.9m people are in work, representing an employment rate of 72.4% (down by 1.7 points on the year). The TUC remains concerned about the numbers of people who are working on a part-time and/or temporary basis involuntarily, and about long-term unemployment, both of which it sees as a sign of a continuing ‘serious weakness’ in the labour market.

Employment rates for both men and women have fallen during the recession but on a far smaller basis than in previous recessions, largely due to involuntary part-time working acting as something of a cushion. The proportion of women who are economically active (not necessarily in employment but looking for work) has also continued to rise in the recession, to a figure of 74.4% (the highest on record) – in contrast to previous recessions. The biggest barrier to female employment remains opportunities to balance work and family life: 41% of women who are inactive but who want a job are looking after a home or family.

The fall in the employment rate has been lesser for women than men, but this is a result of the predominance of women in the public sector, which takes around 40% of women nationally compared to around 15% of male workers. Consequently, large-scale public spending cuts are likely to give good reason to imagine that unemployment may well resume its upwards rise, and may well cause serious hardship to families where a second round of redundancies, this time predominantly amongst women, falls in areas of existing high unemployment.

Given that the public sector is also more likely to provide work-life balance arrangements, spending cuts may well see a reversal of the trend in women’s economic activity rates: representing another aspect of the social, as well as economic, disaster that such cuts would represent.

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Written by Calvin

11/03/2010 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Economic trends

Tagged with ,

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