Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week showed that UK unemployment rose to its highest level in 16 years and currently stands at 8.4%. However, the figures also revealed that women are increasingly bearing the brunt of job cuts; two thirds of the jobs cut in the last quarter’s job cuts had been done by women and at 1.12 million, the number of women out of work is at the highest level for nearly 25 years.
Unfortunately, this trend is one that is likely to continue over the next few of years as women will be affected by planned cuts to public sector jobs. Women are disproportionately represented in the public sector, making up about 65% of the entire workforce. The figure is even higher in some local authorities and they will therefore be harder hit by staff reductions.
The cuts in both national and local public sectors are part of the government’s austerity programme as it struggles to bring the national public deficit under control. In its November 2011 Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Office of Budgetary Responsibility estimated that 710,000 jobs will be lost in the public sector between now and 2017. In addition to the cuts, the public sector pay rises have been restricted to 1% for the next two years until 2015.