The number of women who are unemployed, already at its highest level since 1988, is set for another dramatic increase, the Trades Union Congress will today warn.
The TUC said its analysis of official public sector employment figures revealed that the rate at which women had been recruited over the past decade was much higher than previously thought. As a result, with the public sector now in the frontline of job cuts, women were likely to suffer a disproportionate share of the economic pain inflicted by the Government's austerity measures, it warned.
Some 735,000 additional woman have taken public sector jobs over the past decade and the proportion of women working in the public sector, as opposed to the private sector, has risen three times more quickly than the proportion of men.
Certain regions of the country are particularly exposed to the problem: in the Midlands, the North East and the South East the number of women in public sector jobs has risen more quickly than in other parts of the country.
While the public sector has accounted for 65 per cent of total UK employment growth, 84 per cent of those additional jobs have gone to women, while only 39 per cent have been taken by men.
Brendan Barber, the TUC's general secretary, said women's dependence on the public sector was likely to prove disastrous for female unemployment rates unless the Government amended its economic policies. Mr Barber also warned that the problem threatened to undo much of the progress made by Britain in recent years.
"Female unemployment is already at a 23-year high and, with so many women employed in the public sector, this will only deteriorate as job cuts in our health, education, local government and the civil service continue to mount," he said.
"The rising number of women in work has been a great success story of the last decade. But as childcare and child benefits are cut, vital services, including education and health, are pared back and women's job losses mount we risk reducing women's opportunities in the workplace."
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