Government is 'most female-unfriendly' in living memory, says TUC

 

The Government was accused today of being the most "female-unfriendly" in living memory following new research showing how difficult it is for women to find well-paid part-time work.

The TUC said it expects another rise in female unemployment when official figures are published today, following last month's figure of 1.12 million.

A study by the union organisation showed that thousands of skilled professional women in the public sector were set to lose their jobs because of spending cuts, while jobs in private firms were often low-skilled and poorly paid.

Women's employment in the private sector remains concentrated in areas such as caring, catering, cleaning and clerical work, with a gender pay gap of more than 18%, twice as high as in the public sector, said the report, being discussed today at the TUC Women's Conference in London.

Half of women in private companies earn less than £15,000, compared to fewer than one in five men, the study showed.

General secretary Brendan Barber said: "Over a million women are now without work, with female unemployment rising by nearly a quarter in the North East over the last year.

"But this is not just about a jobs crisis. Women are twice as likely to be affected by the cuts as men. Child benefit and tax credits are being sacrificed as ministers look for ways to cut the tax rate for people earning more than £150,000, even though they get more in tax breaks than most women earn in a year.

"Women are being disproportionately hit by the pay freezes, pension reforms and massive jobs cull in the public sector.

"Basic employment rights are under threat and refuges for victims of domestic violence are being closed. The evidence is clear - this is the most female-unfriendly government in living memory."

A separate report by Women Like Us, which supports working mothers, found a lack of quality part-time jobs, which is hitting the kind of work skilled women could apply for.

Just 3% of part-time jobs pay £20,000 or more, putting women at a "distinct disadvantage" when looking for work, said the group, claiming there was a "blind spot" in official data on part-time vacancies.

Thousands of mothers face a "dead-end choice" between trading down their skills and experience, or not working at all, it was warned.

The lack of quality part-time jobs has a particular impact on mothers with fewer skills as they face competition from higher-skilled women, said Women Like Us.

Co-founder Emma Stewart said: "The creation of more quality part-time vacancies would help thousands of mothers from squeezed income families, enabling them to optimise their earnings in the hours they have available to work."

A government spokesman said: "The Government is making a real difference to women's lives by creating more opportunities and removing barriers to career progression.

"We are introducing flexible parental leave, extending flexible working, investing in childcare and taking action to reduce the gender pay gap. We have already exempted 1.1 million of the lowest paid workers - the majority of whom are women - from paying income tax.

"In addition, we have set up the Women's Business Council and are providing resources for volunteer business mentors who will support women who want to start or grow their own businesses."

PA

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