Is this the Women’s Recession? And if it is, what can we do to help lone parents?

Whilst the young grab the headlines, another group is also finding this recession tough: Women. The October figures show there are more unemployed women now than there have been since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. As 90% of lone parents are women this affects them too.

What are the factors driving the rise in women’s unemployment?

  • A considerable part of the rise is the movement of Lone Parents from Income Support on to JSA. The latest government figures  for August  (lone parent stats are a month behind the main stats)  show that the number of Lone Parents on JSA has risen again, up to 123,805. Over 60%more than the same time last year.
    But this is not the only driver.
  • Another factor is the massive reduction in part-time employment opportunities which the October figures show have fallen by a staggering 175,000.
  • On top of these are the cuts in the public sector – including local government, the health service and education, – where women hold the majority of jobs.
  • Will Hutton, Vice Chairman of the Work Foundation, raised another issue on the Radio Four Today programme earlier this week. He explained, the arrival of the internet and the growth of executives who self-organise has seen a fall-away in the number of women employed in administrative and secretarial roles in the private sector.
  • And we have already explored on this blog how the Cuts in the availability of childcare and a rise in the cost – among the highest in Europe – have led some women to give up jobs as they find they do not pay.

Some thoughts for those helping lone parents find work:
I am not going to focus on policy here, rather practical points that arise from the work I do with parents on the Take three days and Get Confident to Work Projects:  

  • Part-time work is what a lot of parents, want but it is not the only route. Parents I work with often cite the rules, “I only have to work 16 hours”,  but we need to be realistic – it is not always their best option. Low-paid, local, short hours jobs might be good stepping stones, but  16-hour minimum wage jobs are not a long term solution. We need to be able to stretch ambition and that often comes with choosing a job that you want to do.
  • We need to make sure that we have the best possible links into the childcare networks. Parents need to be able to find, pay for and trust the childcare they use. We need to be able to help them. I need to stress here, strong personal contacts with the local Family Information Service, who can help find childcare and advise how to claim the childcare element of Working Tax Credit.
  • Parents need to hone their recent experience for their CVs – especially if they have been out of work for a while. It is important that all parents consider what they can do to make their application seem fresh; especially in a world where lots of people with recent experience are competing. High quality, passionate volunteering can make a real difference. So can getting involved at school or in a local group. Or taking a short course.
  • Parents need better networks. We need to help them get connected to employers. One option is the chance to speak to an employer on neutral ground, so make sure they are invited to employer events. I have found that Parents take twice as much notice of what a real employer says, as they do of the same advice from someone else.
  • The next blog will look at another avenue – building skills whilst your children are young so that when you do go back to work you are better able to get a job you want, with better hours, and better prospects – its part of the “Change for Families” agenda we are developing with Capacity.

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