TUC complains to statistics watchdog over George Osborne's claims on women in work

Chancellor accused of putting a gloss on the figures

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Indy Politics

Chancellor George Osborne faces an investigation by the statistics watchdog over claims that numbers of women with jobs are soaring.

He was accused last night of resorting to “smoke and mirrors” to put the best possible gloss on female employment figures.

The row centres on an analysis by the Treasury that concluded that a record number of women are in work, with increases in every major sector of the economy.

The TUC has lodged a formal complaint with the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Andrew Dilnot, over a Treasury press release which made the assertions.

It said graphics used to back up the analysis were misleading, adding that the department had provided no evidence to support its assertion that female employment fell under Labour.

In addition, the TUC said, the Treasury failed to use the most reliable statistics for gauging jobs levels. If it had, it would have had to admit that female employment had fallen in the manufacturing sector.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC's general secretary, said: “The Chancellor used the wrong statistics, presented them badly and made a case that doesn't survive scrutiny. It’s a clear breach of the rules that protect the public from political spin disguised as official figures.

“After the Treasury’s smoke and mirrors job on welfare spending, a worrying pattern is emerging of taxpayers footing the bill for Conservative propaganda.”

The Treasury confirmed it had been contacted by the UK Statistics Authority over its review of women’s employment levels, but insisted it stood by all its comments.

A spokesman said: “We can confirm the UK Statistical Agency has made us aware of the TUC’s letter regarding the Treasury’s analysis on women in the economy. This analysis is entirely supported by the evidence, and we would refute any suggestion that it is misleading. We can confirm that the analysis has been posted on the Treasury’s website.”

Its analysis, released to coincide by visits by Mr Osborne to employers with large numbers of women workers, reported that the female workforce had risen by nearly 800,000 over the last four years.

Two thirds of working-age women have jobs, well above the average in the major industrialised nations, according to the research, and the vast majority of the new posts are in highly-skilled occupations.