The triple jeopardy: the impact of job cuts on women

What’s the problem?

The Government estimates that around 929,000 jobs in the public sector will be axed over the coming years.

Given that women make up 65% of public sector work force, and account for even higher numbers in certain sectors – for example women make up 75% of the Local Government workforce, 77% of the NHS workforce and 80% of the adult social care workforce – it is clear that women will be hit hardest by job cuts.

In fact, we can expect around twice as many women than men to lose their jobs in the public sector.

Further, increasing levels of lone parents – the vast majority of whom are women – are being moved onto job seeking benefits and expected to seek work, which will also have an effect on the numbers of unemployed women.

The evidence so far

–          To date, around 426,000 posts have been cut from the public sector payroll since the spending cuts began kicking in, with 58% of job losses coming from women

–          Figures out in December 2012 reveal that women’s unemployment now stands at 1.07 million – the highest level in 25 years

–          Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that, since the end of the recession in 2009 women’s unemployment has risen by 12%, whereas it has fallen by 7% for men.

–          What’s more, around three-quarters of job losses in the public sector are yet to come

–          Jobs lost include local government workers, nurses, teachers, council workers, school meal assistants, Sure Start workers, domestic violence support workers and care workers, amongst many others.

Can the private sector deliver for women?

The government is clear that it believes that the route to economic recovery lies with private sector growth and job creation, and that the jobs lost in the public sector will be picked up by employment opportunities in the private sector.

However, we are concerned that women are not currently taking up job opportunities in the private sector at the same rate as men – both because there is increasing competition for the types of part-time, flexible jobs that many women need, and because the evidence suggests that women are not benefitting sufficiently from the opportunities being created in the private sector as a result of the government’s numerous ‘measures for growth’ – many of which weighted towards male-dominated industries such as science and technology.

Alongside the barriers that women face in accessing jobs in the private sector, there are also wider concerns about the quality of jobs available: the sector tends to offer women lower prospects for pay across the board, particularly for those at the low end of the pay scale.

This contributes to the significantly higher overall gender pay gap in the sector which stands at 20% in the private sector versus 14% in the public sector.

The Fawcett Society is therefore concerned that, rather than the pay gap continuing to close as it has done in recent years (albeit too slowly), we may actually see a widening of the pay gap in the coming years unless urgent action is taken.

Fawcett will be launching a comprehensive report on women in the labour market later this month, including a full set of recommendations to government.

Keep an eye the Women and Work section of our website and sign up to our e-newsletter for more details.

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