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Is the recession hitting women harder than men?

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According to the CIPD, it is being widely asserted that the current recession is hitting women harder than men and that this should influence government policy decisions in response to rising unemployment.

However, Dr John Philpott, chief economist and public policy director at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), says that there is so far no evidence on which to base this assertion.

Dr Philpott comments:

“It is a truism that more women will lose jobs in this recession than in previous recessions – there are simply lots more women in the workforce. Yet while one can’t yet rule out the possibility that women will lose out relative to men in the jobs stakes as the recession unfolds, this is categorically not true of the jobs downturn to date.

“Men account for eight in 10 of the jobs lost between the beginning of the jobs downturn in the spring of 2008 and the late autumn (the latest period for which official figures are available). During that period male employment fell by more (0.7%) than female employment (0.3%) while the number of unemployed men increased by almost 200,000 (21%) compared with 96,000 additional unemployed women (an increase of 14%).

“Full-time employment has fallen faster for men (down 1.2%) than for women (down 0.5%). Both men and women have benefited from rising part-time employment. Interestingly, however, part-time employment for men has grown by much more than part-time employment for women, in both absolute and percentage terms (up 5.6% for men and 0.6% for women).

“Only with regard to part-time work have women so far done less well than men in this recession and this may well be to the benefit of longer term equality in the labour market, if part-time work becomes more balanced between men and women. Regardless, part-time employment for women has at least increased overall. The suggestion that women are being relatively hard hit by the recession thus looks to be something of an exaggeration.”

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