Women drawing level with men in British jobs market: Report predicts continuing growth for part-time female workforce

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN is undergoing fundamental social changes with more women in employment than men in many regions. The recession has cut a swathe through full-time job opportunities normally filled by men, while female part-time employment has expanded, according to official figures.

Male-dominated work in manufacturing has slumped to its lowest level for more than a century but the experience of women has been different as employment in the service sector has held up. While female unemployment peaked at 9 per cent in 1986, it stood at 5.6 per cent at the start of this year. Unemployment for men reached 13.5 per cent in 1986 during the last recession but it had reached 14.1 per cent by the start of 1993 - by far the highest level since the 1930s.

Researchers who produced the figures for Incomes Data Services say in today's report: 'All the signs are that job losses are likely to continue among full-time male employees and that economic recovery will further accelerate the shift towards a much larger part-time female workforce.'

Companies such as Burton, BHS and British Airways are cutting back on full-time jobs in favour of part-timers and more organisations are likely to follow suit.

The trend towards greater female employment may be encouraged this summer by the abolition of wages councils, which fix statutory minimum wages for two million low-paid workers, 80 per cent of them women. Joanna Foster, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, has welcomed the increase in female employment, but has pointed out that much of it is in poorly paid jobs which men would normally refuse to do.

Areas where more women than men are working include Essex, Sussex, Devon, Cornwall, Hereford & Worcester, Mid-Glamorgan, Merseyside and the Borders and Lothian regions of Scotland. East Sussex showed the highest proportion of female employment at 54 per cent, while the Grampian region - centre of the North Sea oil industry - had the highest proportion of male employees at more than 57 per cent.

The researchers argue that Britain is fast approaching a point where the same number of women as men will be in work.

Department of Employment figures show that last December there were 10,682,000 men in employment and 10,142,000 women - of whom 4,637,000 were in part-time jobs.

In 1979 there were 13.1 million men in jobs and 9.4 million women.

IDS Report 640; IDS, 193 St John Street, London EC1V 4LS.

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