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Women at increased risk of inequality warns Harman

Official employment figures revealed last week that in the third quarter of 2008, the number of women in full-time work fell by 53,000, compared to a drop of 36,000 in the number of men working full-time.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, equality minister Harriet Harman raised concerns that some employers may be tempted to let go of female workers because they are associated with flexible working requests and expensive maternity leave. She further described the practise as unlawful.

Inequality experienced by women during the down turn however is not limited to the threat of unlawful redundancies. The government rescue package so far has ignored the needs of women in the workplace. Indeed many of the current government measures to reduce unemployment have been in “male” dominated sectors such as motoring and finance, conversely sectors in which women dominate such as retail and services have had little protection.

Communities Minister Hazel Blears told the Guardian: "The experience of previous recessions, and the early indications from this one, is that women bear the brunt of economic hardship. They may be the first to lose their jobs, but conversely they may have to take on more work - an extra job or longer hours - to make up for a male breadwinner who loses his job. Women's roles must be at the heart of policymaking."

Both Harriet Harman and Solicitor-General, Vera Baird last week called on the government to introduce new measures to protect the female workforce. These include the possibility of monitoring employers to check women are not being unfairly targeted. , and new training for women to help them find jobs following redundancy.

posted by Dizali Mentha

Associate Publisher

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Posted by, Asif Yusuf


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