The number of women out of work in the UK has reached its highest level in 25 years despite overall figures dropping, risking sending gender equality into reverse.
Britain's jobless rate for the first three months to February 2012 dropped by 35,000, figures on Wednesday showed, but the number of women out of work rose by 8,000 to 1.14m - the highest figure since November 1987.
According to think tank the IPPR the number of women out of work has risen by 100,000 over the last year with 29% of unemployed women being unemployed for more than a year. Graeme Cooke, IPPR Associate Director, said it was one of the "worrying trends" behind Wednesday's figures.
He told The Huffington Post that the "big worry" is the rise in female unemployment would send gender equality "into reverse."
"Part of the reason that family income in the 1980s and 1990s rose across the board was because of a big rise in female employment.
"Generally, more women were able to advance their careers. But the big risk is that that doesn't continue in the next decade, in fact it could go into reverse. That has massive implications for gender equality and also how households are going to improve their standard of living," he said.
"If you see big declines in the female employment rate that has very long term impact."
Andrew Sissons, researcher at The Work Foundation, said the rise may be due to men without a job moving into part-time work.
"Previously if there were part time jobs in health and education they would have gone to women, now there's extra competition," he told The Huffington Post.
"Women generally perform better in the labour market as a whole. But because there are more men looking for work than women, we've seen a shift, the recent trends are making it difficult for women.
"What's happened in the last year or so is that things are starting to move against women."
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said women were "bearing the brunt" of cuts to public sector funding.
"The record number of people forced into part-time working is masking the sheer scale of unemployment. And women are again bearing the brunt of job cuts with the number unemployed going up by 8,000 to 1.14m."
The rise in part-time workers also contributed to the drop in overall unemployment from 35,000 to 2.65m in the three months to February 2012.
Trade union leader Brendan Barber seized on the figures, saying: "While any rise in the number of jobs is welcome, the fact is that full-time employment is still falling and a record 1.4 million are now stuck in involuntary part-time work."
Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society previously said that the approach to deficit reduction was "pushing women out of the workplace."
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