Unemployment among women aged 50 to 64 has risen 39% in two years compared with a 5% rise for all over-16s
Middle-aged women are by far the worst hit by the recession and spending cuts, according to new research.
As well as picking up family responsibilities at both ends of the age spectrum – children and elderly parents – and bearing the brunt of pension changes, middle-aged women are also suffering heavily from job losses, the research suggests. Figures from the House of Commons library extracted by Labour show unemployment among women aged 50 to 64 has risen by 39% in the last two years, compared with an overall rise of 5% among over-16s.
In the period December 2011 to February 2012, there were 153,000 women aged 50 to 64 out of work – the highest number since the Office for National Statistics began collecting such data in 1992. Age discrimination claims that reached tribunal stage were up by almost a third in the past year.
In the past year, unemployment among men in that age group has fallen by 1%, but has risen by 16% among women. Unemployment among all women rose by 11%.
Although the political narrative has focused on the “squeezed middle” – working families who are seeing price rises and pay cuts eat into their household budgets – it is middle-generation women who are holding things together, under pressure as never before, while being disproportionately squeezed out of the labour market.
At the same time, this “stretched middle” is being adversely affected by other cuts. Many grandmothers are giving up work or going part-time to help their own working children avoid rising childcare costs.
“Women in their 50s and 60s are also most likely to be carers for elderly parents or relatives and are having to do more as social care budgets are being cut,” said Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary and shadow minister for women and equalities.
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