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In the last few days, there have been two well-publicised claims that women are likely to suffer relatively more in the gathering recession than men. The first claim was made by the TUC in a report documenting changes in women’s economic activity since the last recession and claiming that this made them more vulnerable to a downturn than in the past. The rate of redundancies and unemployment were apparently rising faster for women than for men.

The second came in this week’s Sunday Times, where it was reported that a group of ‘senior women ministers’ had taken fright at statistics showing that, in the last quarter, the number of women in full-time work had fallen by 53,000, while the number of men had only fallen by 36,000. The drift of both of these reports was that this was evidence of discrimination against women, and new measures were called for to protect women’s jobs.

A careful reading of the evidence, however, suggests that these claims are exaggerated and misleading. The TUC’s report has now been overtaken by January’s labour markets statistics release, which shows a much sharper rate of increase in redundancies for men. The rate for September-November was 11.5 per thousand, up from 6.8 per thousand in the previous quarter, while for women the increase was only from 4.7 to 6.1 per thousand.

As for the employment data, the Sunday Times ignored the fact that the changes were within the quoted limits of sampling variability. More tellingly, in the last quarter women’s part-time jobs had risen by 56,000, while men’s had fallen by 5,000. Thus total employment of men (including self employment) had fallen by 28,000 while women’s total employment had actually increased by 2,000 over the relevant period, a rather different picture.

Len Shackleton 154x154

Editorial and Research Fellow

Len Shackleton is an Editorial and Research Fellow at the IEA and Professor of Economics at the University of Buckingham. He was previously Dean of the Royal Docks Business School at the University of East London and prior to that was Dean of the Westminster Business School. He has also taught at Queen Mary, University of London and worked as an economist in the Civil Service. His research interests are primarily in the economics of labour markets. He has worked with many think tanks, most closely with the Institute of Economic Affairs, where he is an Economics Fellow. He edits the journal Economic Affairs, which is co-published by the IEA and the University of Buckingham.

4 thoughts on “Women and the recession”

  1. Posted 26/01/2009 at 14:38 | Permalink

    I wrote about this manipulation of government statistics earlier today on my blog:

    http://www.lettersfromatory.com/2009/01/26/yasmin-alibhai-brown-spouts-more-sexist-rubbish/#comment-6229

    It’s appalling to see official data being mispresented in this way by those seeking to punish employers (particularly men).

  2. Posted 26/01/2009 at 14:38 | Permalink

    I wrote about this manipulation of government statistics earlier today on my blog:

    http://www.lettersfromatory.com/2009/01/26/yasmin-alibhai-brown-spouts-more-sexist-rubbish/#comment-6229

    It’s appalling to see official data being mispresented in this way by those seeking to punish employers (particularly men).

  3. Posted 27/01/2009 at 03:12 | Permalink

    “The drift of both of these reports was that this was evidence of discrimination against women, and new measures were called for to protect women’s jobs.”

    The tragi-comic inevitable effect of this would be to further disadvantage women’s employability vis a vis men’s. The last thing women need is more ‘protection’ making them even less attractive employment propositions!

  4. Posted 27/01/2009 at 03:12 | Permalink

    “The drift of both of these reports was that this was evidence of discrimination against women, and new measures were called for to protect women’s jobs.”

    The tragi-comic inevitable effect of this would be to further disadvantage women’s employability vis a vis men’s. The last thing women need is more ‘protection’ making them even less attractive employment propositions!

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