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Jane Hutt, Minister for Finance and Leader of the House

First published:
27 February 2013
Last updated:

This was published under the 2011 to 2016 administration of the Welsh Government

Women, work and the recession in Wales: A report for the Welsh Government by the Bevan Foundation

This week, I launched the Bevan Foundation’s research report Women, Work and the Recession in Wales.

Last year, the Welsh Government commissioned the Bevan Foundation to explore recent trends in women’s position in the labour market in Wales, including changes in the nature of women’s employment and unemployment and issues associated with women’s pay. The report focuses on the four years since the start of the recession (June 2008 to June 2012). Inevitably it does not use the very latest data, so that some of the details may have changed, but the broad messages remain valid.

The report has many important points and the findings confirm that the recession is far from over for women in Wales:

  • The last four years have seen complex changes in women’s employment in Wales with women continuing to lose jobs in the last 12 months.
  • Self employment has increased whilst part time employment is contracting.
  • Women in occupations at the bottom of the labour market have borne the brunt of job losses
  • Women’s employment has been substantially affected by the increase in the state pension age for women
  • Changes to social security benefits have seen many women moving into the labour market and contributed to the increase in women’s unemployment.
  • Women continue to earn less than men across the income distribution
  • The gender pay gap is smaller in the public sector than in the private sector.
  • There are particular challenges for young women and women moving off benefit (especially women with children)

The report finds that the recession has followed a different course for women. Where men’s jobs were hit hard in the first few years of the recession, women have lost jobs more recently and continue to do so.

Although overall, women’s employment has experienced fewer job losses over the four year period than men’s, these headline figures do not paint the full picture. In particular, they include a marked increase in the number of older women staying in work as the state pension age increases. There are now nearly 15,000 more women aged 50-64 in work than in 2008. Over the four years, women under the age of 50 have lost the same proportion of their employment as men of this age.

The fall in employment has fallen particularly heavily on younger women, with the number of women aged 16-24 in a job falling by more than 20% in just four years (2008-2012).

Our Programme for Government and Strategic Equality Plan contain key actions to enable more women better access to employment.  Our Strategic Equality Plan and Tackling Poverty Action Plan also contain actions supporting the provision of affordable and high quality childcare as well as improving the availability of childcare We will continue to work with partners to address the causes of gender pay and employment differences.

The Ministerial Task and Finish Group for Welfare Reform is completing a comprehensive assessment of the cumulative effect of the benefit changes highlighted in the Bevan Foundation’s report. The results of this assessment will be used to target our efforts further, to help mitigate the negative implications of Welfare Reform.

The Bevan Foundation report underlines the challenges facing women in the labour market. It will help to inform policy across Welsh Government as we seek to address both the long-term causes of gender differences in employment and pay and mitigate the effect of austerity measures.

I attach a copy and hyperlink to the Bevan Foundation report with this Written Statement: