Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Downturn 'hitting women harder'

Staff gather before locking the doors for the last time at the Woolworths store in Petersfield, Hampshire, on 6 January 2009
Job losses in retail and hospitality hit women particularly

Female workers are being hit harder than ever before by the effects of the current downturn, a report suggests.

A study by the TUC showed the redundancy rate among women had risen by 2.3%, almost double the rate for men, since last year.

It said more women were in work and more households depended on a woman's wage than in previous downturns.

It also found many job losses were occurring in retail and hospitality, where more women than men work.

The study, published ahead of Wednesday's unemployment figures which are expected to show another big rise in the jobless total, also found women now earn more than men in a fifth of couples.

Unnoticed redundancies

Female/male redundancy rates

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said it was going to be an "equal opportunities recession", compared to the aftermath of Britain's previous economic downturns.

He explained: "Job losses in sectors where men predominate such as manufacturing and construction are now being balanced by job losses in retail and hospitality where more women than men work."

"But job losses among men are still more likely to hit the headlines as women tend to work in smaller workplaces where redundancies go unnoticed by the media.

"With so many households absolutely dependent on women's wages, the government must ensure that women benefit from programmes to help those facing redundancy and the long-term unemployed."

The TUC urged the government to take specific measures to ensure unemployed women received the support they needed to get back into work.

Women's employment has increased significantly over the past 30 years, while it has fallen for men, according to the research.

Meanwhile, a separate study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed half of employers had launched recruitment freezes in a bid to avoid making redundancies, while a similar number were shedding temporary or agency workers.

The survey of almost 900 employers revealed one in seven had introduced short-term working or cut bonuses, while 7% had trimmed wage costs.

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