Women would be hit hardest by public spending cuts, warns TUC

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date: 8 March 2010

embargo: 00.01hrs Wednesday 10 March 2010

Deep public spending cuts would lead to heavy job losses for women and substantially reduce their income in retirement, according to a report published today (Wednesday) by the TUC.

The report, Women and the Recession - One Year On, warns that early public spending cuts would hit female employment hardest because around four in ten women work in public sector occupations, compared to less than two in ten men.

The report identifies Wales (46.6 per cent), the North East (45.9 per cent) and Scotland (43.1 per cent) as the areas where the highest proportion of women work in the public sector. Women working in these areas are most vulnerable to job losses resulting from public spending cuts, the report says.

Female unemployment increased by 1.9 per cent during the recession compared to 3.4 per cent for men - a far smaller difference than previous recessions. During the early 1990s recession male unemployment rate increased at nearly five times the rate of female job losses.

Women and the Recession - One Year On shows how female unemployment during the recession has varied greatly between regions. Yorkshire and the Humber has had the biggest increase in women's unemployment since the start of the recession (+3.1 percentage points), followed by London (+2.8 percentage points) and Wales (+2.2 percentage points). London is the only area of the UK where female unemployment has increased faster than men's.

The report shows that many areas with a high proportion of female public sector workers also have higher than average male unemployment rates, so spending cuts could leave many families with both parents out of work.

Women and the Recession - One Year On warns that cuts to public sector pensions would also increase the gender divide in retirement income and lead to greater poverty for female pensioners.

Women's average income in retirement is a third less than men's, and it would be far worse were it not for the superior record of the public sector in providing decent pensions for women and lower-paid staff, the report says. It warns that women hold nearly two-thirds (64.5 per cent) of defined benefit schemes in the public sector so any cuts to pensions would disproportionately fall on them.

The report shows that women in the public sector are currently doing around £5 billion worth of unpaid overtime a year. With public services already under strain, further job losses would leave staff even more stretched, the report says.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Slashing public spending may satisfy fiscal hawks and city traders but it would cause misery to millions of people who have already suffered from the recession. A fresh wave of public sector job losses could leave many families with both parents out of work.

'Many women choose to work in the public sector because it offers secure work with a good work-life balance and a decent retirement income. It's hardly fair that these are now all under threat thanks to the mistakes of super-rich bankers, who are already back collecting their bonuses.

'When politicians talk about the need for deep spending cuts they rarely say how this would affect ordinary working people. But as our report makes clear - women would have to pay for these cuts with their jobs and pensions.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Region

Number of women working in public sector occupations (2008)

Percentage of women working in public sector occupations (2008)

Male unemployment rate (Nov 2009)

Female unemployment rate (Nov 2009)

North East

234,930

45.9

10.9

7.4

North West

618,129

41.5

9.8

7

Yorkshire and the Humber

469,078

42.0

10.5

7.5

East Midlands

375,300

40.9

8.4

5.8

West Midlands

472,345

41.2

11.5

6.9

Eastern England

443,687

37.6

7

6

London

629,939

31.4

9

9.4

South East

696,754

37.6

7

5.3

South West

465,284

41.3

7.5

5.3

Wales

279,061

46.6

9.8

7.2

Scotland

528,999

43.1

9

6.1

GB

5,213,506

39.6

8.9

6.7

- The data on public sector occupations comes from the Annual Business Inquiry (ABI) - an employer survey conducted in September 2008 (the most recently published data). The ABI provides estimates of jobs by industry, rather than whether individuals are employed in the public or private sector, therefore some private sector workers who are contracted to provide services to the public sector are included in the analysis (including GPs, university and further education staff, agency and contracted workers, and privately provided education, health and welfare services). We do not consider this a problem for this analysis, as these jobs would also be at risk from spending cuts. The ABI does not include Northern Ireland.

- Women and the Recession - One Year On is available to download at www.tuc.org.uk/extras/womenandrecessiononeyearon.pdf

- To coincide with International Women's Day on Monday 8 March the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) published the report Decisions for Work which examines the factors affecting women's decisions about work around the world. The report is available to download at www.wageindicator.org/main/publications/2010

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

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

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 Brenchley T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: ebrenchley@tuc.org.uk

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