A mixed picture for women’s employment
Today’s labour market statistics present a mixed picture of women’s unemployment. On the one hand the news is good. The number of unemployed women (ILO measure) fell by 5,000 on the quarter to just over 1 million. Although this is welcome it’s still a notably smaller fall than men have experienced (31,000 on the quarter) although male unemployment levels remain far higher than female levels. Correspondingly, the employment rate for women aged 16-64 was up 0.3% on the previous quarter.
Yet the claimant count measure of unemployment paints a less rosy picture. According to the government’s figures, the number of women claiming Jobseekers Allowance increased by 9,300 to reach 474,400 – the highest it’s been for 15 years. Worryingly, this appears to be a trend: this is the tenth consecutive rise in the number of women claimants.
I blogged about the possible causes of this trend last month here.
In addition to job cuts in the public sector and a sluggish retail sector limiting jobs growth – this month saw a small quarterly fall of 5,000 in retail vacancies, compared to a 15,000 increase in available jobs in manufacturing – changes to Lone Parent Obligations are also leading to increasing numbers of women joining the claimant count. At present single parents whose youngest child is seven or older are required to seek work and are therefore moved off Income Support either into work or onto JSA (or ESA in cases of disability). Later this year the age of the youngest child will fall to five which is likely to lead to more single mothers will be moving onto the claimant count.
According to the government’s own Equalities Impact Assessment of the Lone Parent Obligations,
“Given that 96 per cent of lone parents on Income Support with a child aged 5 – 6 are female, these measures will clearly impact on more women than men”
At the risk of sounding like a naysayer whose glass is perpetually half empty, in spite of the good news overall for women’s employment, let’s not take our eye off the stubbornly rising female claimant count.