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

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date: 2 September 2011

embargo: 00.01hrs Monday 5 September 2011

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.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- The TUC analysis is available at www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/71/publicprivate.xls and www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/70/GENDERREGIONPUBLICANDPRIVATE.xls

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Congress 2011 will be held at the TUC's Congress House in central London this year. The event runs over three days, from Monday 12 to Wednesday 14 September. Free media passes can be obtained by visiting www.tuc.org.uk/the_tuc/tuc-19831-f0.cfm and filling in the online form. All applications for media passes must be received no later than noon today (Monday 5 September). Any applications received after then will be processed when possible and may be subject to delay. Late applications will be subject to a £50 administration fee. Wi-fi will be available free of charge throughout the venue.

- The data considered was from the quarterly Labour Force Survey (LFS) and compared July-September 2010 with the period July-September 2000. This is the latest data LFS currently publicly available within the required format. July-September 2010 provides a good point at which to assess public sector jobs growth, as few job losses as a result of spending cuts had been made at that point. The data is not seasonally adjusted.

- Individual respondents to the LFS classify themselves as working within the public or private sector. Estimates to the number of people working in the public sector from the LFS are generally higher than ONS official quarterly estimates of public sector employment (PSE). This is partially because many people who work within public sector premises, whilst being employed by private sector organisations, will classify themselves as working in the public sector, e.g. cleaners or security guards employed by a contractor to work at public sector premises. As their employment is strongly tied to public sector funding it is valid to include them in this analysis. Use of this analysis also benefits from the fact that few employees of publicly owned banks (who are included in ONS PSE estimates) will classify themselves as public sector employees. In addition, ONS official estimates of PSE not broken down by gender or region.

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: egibson@tuc.org.uk

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