A release of official employment figures last week by the Office for National Statistics led to widespread reports that women are faring less well than men in the labour market. However, CIPD Chief Economic Adviser, Dr John Philpott, has said that these stories are misleading, and that the statistics have been misinterpreted.
For the first three quarters of 2011, the number of women in employment actually increased by 0.5%, whilst the number of men decreased by 0.3%. When removing the amount of people in self-employment, both sexes did see a fall in employment, but once again men fared worse.
The unemployment rate did deteriorate slightly more for women (up from 7.1% to 7.7%) than for men (up from 8.5% to 9%) but this was due to more women entering the labour market rather than a fall in the number of women in work.
It is true that in the final quarter of 2011, the rise in female unemployment (up 32,000) was higher than that for men (up 16,000) but again this was because an increase in the number of women entering the labour market exceeded an increase in the number of women in employment. It was not the result of fewer women in work.
Doctor John Philpott commented: “It is evident that conditions in the UK labour market are at present tough for both women and men, and there is a clear and severe overall shortage of jobs that needs to be filled. However, it is misleading to say that women are being hit harder than men.
“This is perhaps surprising given the relatively high concentration of women working in the public sector. Further large scale public sector downsizing may therefore have an adverse impact on female unemployment in the coming months and years.
“But the current popular narrative suggesting that female employment is already falling and unemployment rising relative to that of men because of the impact of fiscal austerity is not supported by available data.”