Female Unemployment: Is This Why Downing Street Needs A Women's Adviser?

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WOMEN OUT OF WORK
PA

The million young people out of work isn't the only worrying statistic in Wednesday morning's joblessness figures. Female unemployment has risen by 43,000 to 1.09m - a 23 year high. And according to the experts, it's going to get worse.

"I think in terms of women's unemployment it will continue to rise. In terms of young people, it will remain high, but these figures are from over the summer. It will certainly remain high because jobs aren't being created", Dalia Ben-Galim, an associate director at the IPPR, told Huff Post.

The reason why female unemployment is so high? "Obviously there are big cuts in the public sector and they tend to hit women, and the public sector offers more part-time work", Ben-Galim says.

Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said that the approach to deficit reduction was "pushing women out of the workplace":

"Recent research found that more than two thirds of jobs lost in local government between the first quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2011 belonged to women.

"At the same time, women are bearing the brunt of cuts to benefits - 11 billion of the 18 billion pounds cut through changes to tax and benefits each year is coming from women's pockets. Decades of steady, albeit slow, progress on equality for women is being dismantled, as cuts to women's jobs and the benefits and services they rely on turn back time on women's equality."

Unemployment matters, for women and young people because of its "scarring" effects. Ben-Galim says long-term unemployment in particular can lead to "a patchy trajectory of work throughout their life course, lower wages, lower career prospects, things like mental health prospects, illness, those kind of things".

The figures are another headache for the government, who are hemorrhaging female support. A leaked Downing Street memo has acknowledged that some of the government's policies "are seen as having hit women, or their interests, disproportionately" - and now they are looking at getting an adviser in to stand up for women's interests within Downing Street.

But with the move being dismissed as tokenism by some backbench MPs, there are questions if a special adviser focusing on women would be appropriate - or would work.

"It needs to be broader than that - we need to be careful, what is a women's issue anyway? I think there are particular sector where women have tended to work in higher rates, for example the public sector. But it's about stimulating growth and mitigating the costs of long-term unemployment" Ben Galim says.

Charlotte Vere, the founder of Women On and former Conservative candidate says she thinks it's a good idea Number 10 have someone to act as "the eyes and ears for women" both in Downing Street and across departments.

"Recent experience has shown me that there are lots of people wanting to get involved and 'do something', but no focus for the activity in government. Having someone fulfilling that role would be a significant step forward."

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