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Cath Everett

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Public sector cuts are bad news for female workers

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Female workers face the worst employment prospects for a generation as swingeing job cuts in the public sector, which employs twice as many women as the private, mean that they will be disproportionately hit.
 

These are the findings of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) latest quarterly Labour Market Outlook (LMO) survey of more than 700 UK employers.
 
The study noted a drop of -33% in the balance of public sector employers expecting to hire more staff in the first three months of 2010. About 21% of the UK workforce is employed by public authorities, the equivalent of 6.09 million in September 2009, up 23,000 from June 2009 and 910,000 from 1997.
 
But more than a third of this workforce was made up of women in the fourth quarter of last year, compared with only about one in six in the private sector.
 
Gerwyn Davies, the CIPD’s public policy advisor said that, while women had benefitted from the rapid expansion of the public sector since 1997 and had fared better in the recession up until now, the situation was set to change.
 
As “hundreds of thousands of public sector job cuts are made in the next few years”, we are likely to see “the worst employment prospects for women in a generation”, he added.
 
Across all sectors, meanwhile, the balance of employers expecting to hire more staff in the first three months of 2010 was -5%, a figure that compared unfavourably with the -3% fall recorded in the CIPD’s previous quarter’s report.
 
It also compared unfavourably with statistics from the latest US Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) LMO survey, which is based on similar criteria. This saw a balance of +11 in net employment intentions compared with +6% in the previous quarter – the most positive figure since the US version was started a year ago.
 
The US study also found that, while only 12% of US employers plan to cut jobs in the first quarter of this year compared with nearly three quarters in the previous quarter, the situation is not quite so rosy in the UK. Here 28% are planning to make redundancies, although the figure has fallen from 40% in the previous quarter.
 
The US employment rate currently stands at 10% compared with the UK’s 7.8% in the three months to December 2009.
 

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