“Women accounted for just a fifth of the fall in employment during the recession and only around a third of the rise in unemployment” Telegraph, 14 December 2011
“The recession of 2008-09 is sometimes referred to as a “mancession” because men were hit relatively hard” The Financial Times, 14 December 2011
The impact of the recession and cuts to government spending on gender equality has attracted the attention of politicians and the media alike.
However while a number of newspaper reports have claimed that the “recession is hitting women hardest,” a report surfaced today that suggested that actually men suffered more. So which is true?
This morning’s papers took their cue from a report issued by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), which argued that “the recession of 2008-9 is sometimes referred to as a ‘mancession’ because men were hit relatively hard when it came to jobs.”
Looking at the Office of National Statistic’s 2010 Labour Market report, the employment and unemployment figures do show that from 2008 to 2009, the male unemployment rate rose by 2.51 per cent, compared to 1.2 per cent for women
From the third quarter of 2008 to the same period of 2009, the number of women in employment only fell by 33,000 whereas the number of men employed fell by 413,000.
Given that officially, the UK economy was in recession between the second quarter of 2008 and the third quarter of 2009, the CIPD claims for this period do seem to be accurate.
However it is interesting to note that since 2009, the picture is quite different. The most recent data (August-October 2011) shows that while the unemployment rate for working age men is, at 9.2 per cent, exactly the same as it was for the same period two years ago, for women it has risen from 6.9 to 7.9 per cent.
The following graph from the ONS report shows the pattern of male to female unemployment rates from 2008:
So how useful is this data for judging the impact of the recession on the jobs market in terms of gender?
Former Chief Economist of Policy Exchange and member of the Shadow Monetary Policy Committee Andrew Lilico pointed out in the Telegraph that:
“Unemployment is what economists call a “lagging indicator”. In other words, unemployment reaches its peak after recessions have ended.”
This is particularly true in the public sector, which employs a higher proportion of men than the private sector. The full effects of the recession might therefore not yet have been felt.
So while it is correct to point out that men fared worse than women in the labour market during the recession months, it is less clear that they will continue to do so as the impact of the downturn continues to be felt.
More recent employment data suggests that this trend may be reversing, although it is too soon to know for sure.