The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) says the media has misinterpreted recent unemployment data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Dr John Philpott, Chief Economic Adviser at CIPD said: “Reports that women are at present faring less well than men in the labour market, primarily because of the disproportionate impact of public sector job cuts, are misleading.
“In the year to the final quarter of 2011, a period of considerable public sector downsizing, the number of men in employment fell by 43,000 while the number of women in employment increased by 50,000.”
And he added: “It is true that the rise in female unemployment in the final quarter of 2011, up 32,000, was higher than that for men, up 16,000, but this was because an increase in the number of women entering the labour market exceeded an increase in the number of women in employment. It was not the result of fewer women in work.”
Dr Philpott continued by saying that the UK labour market is tough for both women and men, and there is a clear and severe overall shortage of jobs that needs to be filled.
But he said: “However, it is misleading to say women are being hit harder than men. This is perhaps surprising given the relatively high concentration of women working in the public sector. Further large scale public sector downsizing may therefore have an adverse impact on female unemployment in the coming months and years. But the current popular narrative suggesting that female employment is already falling and unemployment rising relative to that of men because of the impact of fiscal austerity is not supported by available data.”
The number unemployed rose by 48,000 in the three months to December to 2.67 million. There was a 22,000 increase in youth unemployment to 1.038 million but employment rose by 60,000 over the quarter.
John Cridland, director-general of bosses organisation the CBI, said: “The unemployment situation continues to be very worrying, especially for young people. But it’s positive that jobs are being created in the private sector. This month’s data confirms the tentative signs we saw last month of a recovery in private sector hiring. The total number of people employed has risen again.
“Nevertheless, unemployment still rose, but this was driven mainly by people who were previously not actively looking for a job, who have now started to actively seek work.”
Richard Baker, director, specialist recruitment consultancy of Robert Half UK said: “There is still increasing supply and demand for jobs in specialised areas such as accountancy, finance, IT and financial services, which are all faring far better than the national average. Interestingly, we are seeing a changing appetite in what companies evaluate in a candidate, with hiring managers looking to recruit ‘specialists’ who can make an immediate difference to a business and ultimately the bottom line. Finding and retaining skilled professionals has become increasingly challenging and those who are able to provide this ‘return-on-capital’ are highly sought after.
“The government’s ‘Youth Contract’ will play a key role in stimulating the jobs market. It’s imperative that employers create opportunities for graduates, whether that comes in the form of an internship or training programmes, to ensure we avoid a lost generation of talent that will impact the modern workforce for years to come. Work experience is invaluable for new job hunters and it is here that organisations can really make a difference.”