More Women Join Workforce Despite Redundancy Surge

Redundancies rose by record levels in the three months to October, but the number of women in employment has risen since last year.



Redundancies rose by a record 370,000 between August and October, according to the latest Office for National Statistics figures.

The figures show the number of payroll employees has fallen by 819,000 since February 2020, with the steepest decline at the start of the pandemic.  The number of redundancies reached a high of 370,000 between August and October 2020, an increase of 217,000 in the quarter, although the number of redundancies fell slightly in October 2020.  Unemployment was at 4.9%, 1.2 percentage points higher than a year earlier.

According to the ONS, the hospitality sector has suffered the worst job losses, followed by retail.  The hospitality sector accounted for nearly a third of the 819,000 job losses since February 2020. The figures date from before the November lockdown.

Tony Wilson from the Institute of Employment Studies said: “Today’s jobs figures show that the labour market was starting to recover through September and October, but clearly remains far weaker than it was before this crisis began… Perhaps most strikingly, in the last three months we’ve seen significant falls in employment for men – down by 150 thousand – while employment for women has risen slightly, driven by a rise of over 160 thousand in the number of full-time employees.  This may well reflect people increasing hours in response to their partner losing their job or income, as we’ve seen in previous crises; or the fact that women are more likely to work in ‘key worker’ roles, particularly in health and care.”

The estimated employment rate for women was 72.1% –  0.1 percentage points up on the same period the previous year but largely unchanged in the quarter, according to the ONS.

Wilson added that there were signs in the most recent vacancy figures that recruitment may have started to drop again in early November and said more needed to be done to support a jobs recovery in the new year, including getting a Brexit deal.

The figures also showed the number of self-employed fell by 183,000 since last quarter to 4.5 million. This reflects a fall of 460,000 since the same time last year. IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) says they show a “year of relentless decline” for the self-employed sector and the urgent need for the government to consider a Directors Income Support Scheme proposal for limited company directors who have missed out on government support during the pandemic.

Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), said: “After growing continuously for over ten years, in 2020 the self-employed sector has slumped as hundreds of thousands have been pushed out, with many ending up in the benefits system.

“The continuing decline of the sector shows the urgent need for the government to look again at support for excluded groups such as the newly self-employed and sole directors of limited companies.

“We and other organisations have proposed numerous solutions to support these groups: government must urgently look again at these to rescue the many excluded freelancers who are still clinging on through savings and loans. We believe the government should particularly look at the Directors Income Support Scheme that has recently been proposed – to get support to this vital and so far forgotten group.”

Meanwhile, a report by the Fabian Society and trade union Community has warned that Covid-19 had sped up the pace of automation and that low-paid workers in sectors most affected by Covid restrictions face a “double whammy” from Covid and technology changes.

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