The ‘Madonna generation’ of female workers over 50 defy the jobs recession, according to the CIPD
There are 271,000 (8%) more women aged 50-64 in the labour market than at the start of the recession and 200,000 (6.2%) more in work, according to the CIPD.
The number of men in this age group in employment has risen by only 3,000.
In its latest Work Audit report, published today, the CIPD investigated how the jobs recession that began in 2008 has affected men and women across the age spectrum:
The report Age, gender and the jobs recession, which is based on official statistics from the Labour Force Survey, found women aged 50-64, and men and women aged 65 and over are the only age groups to have registered an increase in both the number in work and employment rates since the start of the jobs recession and have also registered the smallest increases in unemployment.
People aged 25-34 are the only other age group to see a rise in employment over the course of the jobs recession, with the number in work increasing by 249,000 (4%), much of the increase likely to be due to inward migration.
Across all age groups there are 387,000 fewer men in work (a net fall of 2.4%) than in the first quarter of 2008. By contrast the number of women in work is only 8,000 (0.05%) lower.
Although the number of unemployed women has increased by almost half a million, to reach a record level of 1.12 million, this is not primarily due to fewer jobs for women but instead to a relatively large rise (of 438,000) in the number of women participating in the labour market. Even accounting for this, the gender unemployment gap (i.e. the difference between the male and female unemployment rate) has increased from 0.8 percentage points to 1.3 percentage points.
The stronger employment outcome for women is mainly the result of a substantial rise of 172,000 (16.3%) in the number of women in self-employment. The number of women working full time as employees has fallen by 220,000 (3%), partly offset by a small rise in part-time employment (up 44,000 or 0.9%).
Women have seen strong net employment growth in managerial, professional and technical occupations but have done much less well in traditionally feminised occupations. The number of women in administrative, secretarial, sales and customer services roles has fallen by almost 400,000 since the start of the recession. Somewhat surprisingly, the number of men performing this kind of semi-skilled white collar work has increased, the net fall in male employment resulting from substantial job loss in skilled and semi-skilled blue collar occupations - skilled trades and plant, process and machine operation - and unskilled work.
The older people get the more likely it is that they will remain out of work for longer when unemployed, although long-term unemployment rates have increased more for younger than older people since the start of the jobs recession. Men have much higher rates of long-term unemployment than women in every age group although the share of women who are long-term unemployed has increased in all age groups.
John Philpott chief economic adviser at the CIPD, said: "When it comes to work, older people have clearly fared better than young people during the jobs recession. But what's also clear is that older women have done best of all. While a combination of population ageing and fewer people wanting to retire early, either for financial reasons or because of a broader desire to prolong their working lives, is boosting the older workforce, it is older women that are getting most of the available jobs. Just why this is happening requires further examination, though with the modern generation of 50 something women more likely to view Madonna than Grandma Grey as a role model, the economically active older woman is well on course to be ever more prominent in British workplaces in the coming years.
"But the relatively good outcome for older women during the recession is no cause for complacency about the need to continually stress the business case for an even more age diverse workforce as the economy starts to recover, especially with so much public policy action understandably focused on cutting youth unemployment. Simplistic talk about older people staying in jobs at the expense of the young must not be allowed to put a brake on progress toward nudging employers to do even better in coping with demographic change. An ageing workforce presents both challenges and opportunities for employers, who at some point in the not too distant future will struggle to fill vacancies unless they recruit and retain older workers, women and men, in even far greater numbers.
"While policy measures such as the removal of the Default Retirement Age in October 2011 are helping to maintain progress, lingering opposition to that positive move demonstrates just how difficult it can be to change the business mindset. It's vital therefore that the relative fortunes of old and young people during the jobs recession is used to stimulate discussion about how best to improve employment prospects overall, so as to avoid pointless and unnecessary talk of an 'intergenerational jobs war.' This is precisely why the CIPD recently published guidance, Managing a healthy ageing workforce, which helps organisations to respond appropriately to the ageing workforce in order to gain competitive advantage in terms of recruiting and retaining talent and supporting the well-being and engagement of employees of all ages."
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