TUC general secretary to tell conference better childcare, modern working practises will do far more to help the real economy than endless austerity


TUC general secretary Brendan Barber (pictured) will warn that the coalition government is the “most female-unfriendly in living memory” when he addresses delegates at the TUC Women’s Conference later today.

The warning comes as the latest unemployment figures published at 9.30am are expected to show another rise in female joblessness, with the number of women out of work at its highest level for a quarter of a century.

 A TUC report to the Women’s Conference, also published today, highlights the employment challenges currently facing women.

 The report shows that with many thousands of skilled professional women in the public sector set to lose their jobs, the concentration of female private sector employment in low-skilled and poorly paid sectors poses a big challenge to their pay and career prospects.

 Despite decades of progress, women’s employment in the private sector remains concentrated around the five ‘cs’ – caring, catering, cashiering, cleaning and clerical work. As a result the gender pay gap for women working full time is twice as high in the private sector (18.4 per cent) as it is in the public sector (9.2 per cent).

Government figures show that half of all women working in the private sector earn less than £15,000 a year, compared to less than one in five men.

Better access to high quality, well paid, and skilled part-time work in the private sector would help more women into better paid management positions and could help tackle the skills shortages that many companies report despite high levels of unemployment, the TUC says.

Speaking at the TUC Women’s Conference, Brendan Barber will say: “This is a time of tremendous difficulty for ordinary women and their families.

“Over a million women are now without work, with female unemployment rising by nearly a quarter in the North East over the last year. But this is not just about a jobs crisis.

“Women are twice as likely to be affected by the cuts as men.

“Child benefit and tax credits are being sacrificed as ministers look for ways to cut the tax rate for people earning more than £150,000, even though they get more in tax breaks than most women earn in a year.

“Women are being disproportionately hit by the pay freezes, pension reforms and massive jobs cull in the public sector. Basic employment rights are under threat and refuges for victims of domestic violence are being closed.

“The evidence is clear: this is the most female-unfriendly government in living memory.

“Together we must make the case that equal pay, better childcare and modern working practises will do far more to help the real economy than endless austerity.  

“We need to support the ambition and talent of working mums – our greatest economic success story in the last four decades – and not turn the clock back by culling public sector jobs and slashing basic employment rights.

“Most of all we need a change of economic strategy – one that prioritises jobs over self-defeating cuts.”

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