Women and young people are benefiting much less from the labour market recovery

The number of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds who have been unemployed for more than a year has also risen by almost 50 per cent since 2010


Today’s employment results highlight the different experiences of men and women in this recovery. The government likes to boast that labour market figures are improving, but relies on figures which ignore women’s relative positions. A closer look at today’s numbers casts the chancellor’s boasting in a less favourable light.

We are still not seeing any significant progress on youth unemployment; this continues to be high at 743,000. The challenge of reducing youth unemployment remains crucial to securing a labour market recovery for all. Research has shown the scarring impact that long periods of unemployment can have on young people’s lives.



Analysis of official figures by the House of Commons Library for Labour also showed that the number of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds who have been unemployed for more than a year has risen by almost 50 per cent since 2010.

The headline figures also mask some significant labour market inequalities for women: of the rise in women’s employment over the last year almost 50 per cent has been in part time work, and while self employment has been falling recently overall, over the last year a quarter of the growth in women’s employment has been in part time self employment. This important point seems to be ignored by ministers when boasting about the rise in full time employment over the year, as this applies to men only.

Our recent analysis also showed that women who moved in to part-time jobs during 2014 were typically employed on much lower rates of pay than women moving into full time work. Over four fifths of the net growth in women’s part time employment in 2014 was in jobs like clerical, caring and cleaning work. The average hourly pay for women working part-time in administrative and clerical occupations in 2014 was £9.34 an hour. And for those working part-time in caring and elementary occupations such as cleaning it was just £8.12 and £6.70 an hour respectively.

All the growth in self employment over the last year has been in women’s part-time employment. The most common part-time self employed jobs for women in 2014 were hairdressers and cleaners which are roles that typically pay below the living wage.

The graph below breaks down the self employment data by gender and full-time and part-time work, and illustrates both that part – time self employment continues to increase and that the rises are being driven by the increases in the number of self – employed women.


Women are clearly not benefiting as much as men from the improving overall labour market figures. This ‘recovery’ could leave women with a worse relative position than they had before the recession.

And despite the rise in full time employee jobs, it is still true that the share of full-time employee jobs in the labour market is lower than it was in 2008. There is still a shortfall of over half a million full time employee jobs.

Any recent gains in the labour market must also be set against large-scale under-employment. Our analysis of underemployment takes a comprehensive look at the true scale of under-employment by looking at how many workers across the economy want more hours in their existing jobs as well considering the regularly published measure of the number of workers in part-time jobs who want to work full-time.

This analysis shows there were 2.3 million people underemployed in late 2007, and that this currently stands at 3.2 million. Around one in 10 people in work are currently underemployed and women are more likely to be underemployed.

The UK needs a much lower rate of under-employment otherwise levels of in-work poverty will remain high. The jobs recovery will only be fully underway when under-employment levels start to show significant falls too.

Wages are still stuck in the slow lane of recovery. Average weekly earnings using total pay ( 3 month average) increased by 1.8 per cent over the year, this fell from the previous month when it stood at 2.1 per cent, and average weekly earnings fell from £489 to £483.

The single month data showed the rise in weekly earnings was only 1.1 per cent. Nominal earnings increases are still low, and far poorer than before the crisis when wage growth was close to 4 percent. Any real growth in wages is only a result of the current exceptionally low rate of inflation. There is huge gap to make in living standards.

The chancellor has a habit of taking credit he isn’t really entitled to and overstating success. In his budget speech today he boasted about the rise in employment has been in full time jobs ignoring the fact that recently this is only true of men. Similarly he likes to give the impression that his policies have caused low inflation when this is not the case and is down to lower prices for globally traded commodities such as oil.

Anjum Klair works in the TUC’s Economics and Social Affairs Department. Follow her on Twitter

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