THE number of women claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) in the Liverpool city region has doubled since the recession, as women have borne the brunt of the region’s economic downturn.
Youth unemployment is also soaring as the city region battles to find a road to recovery, the Post can reveal.
Government figures show the number of women claiming JSA in the six city region boroughs now stands at 17,973 – more than double the figure claiming in late 2007. Experts say women have been hit hardest by public sector cuts – and warn that the pain may not yet be over.
Meanwhile, a study by Liverpool firm Ambitious Minds shows that the number of unemployed 18 to 24-year olds in the city region has risen by 6,000 since the financial crisis began – and shows the number of young people out of work for more than a year has trebled in the past six months to nearly 2,000.
The region has performed better than many rivals, while projects have been put in place to help young people and women into work including an ongoing project to create 10,000 apprenticeships.
But the challenge for Liverpool’s new mayor and other local council leaders is clear – women and young people need to be helped into work if Merseyside’s economy is to recover quickly.
Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of Liverpool-based female enterprise agency, The Women’s Organisation (TWO), said: “The enormity of the situation has come as a surprise to some.
“Some of the notable data we’ve seen, which is very striking, shows a high number of women coming out of well-paid, responsible jobs.
“We’ve had fairly brutal public sector funding cuts in the North, particularly in Liverpool city region, and because there’s significant female employment in the public sector it has disproportionately impacted women.
“It’s an economic tsunami we’re experiencing right now in terms of young women. Anything between one in four and one in five are out of work.
“We’re storing up trouble for the future. If young women cannot get experience in the workplace and are outside the workplace for extended periods, then that will have a significant impact going forward.”
Figures compiled by the Post from Office for National Statistics data show that, in December, 2007, the number of women claiming jobseeker’s allowance stood at 8,480. By the end of 2008, it had risen to almost 10,000 across the six city region boroughs – Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, Wirral, St Helens and Halton.
The next year saw a dramatic rise, with the total rising to almost 15,000 by September. In 2010, the level dropped slightly, but last year numbers rose again, hitting a peak of 18,300 in September.
Ms O’Carroll said the UK needed more affordable childcare facilities to help women into employment.
She said: “Women are still the primary carers for children and older people. We cannot get away from that.
“We are seeing a shift and more sharing of responsibilities, but if young women are to get into and stay in the labour market, they need adequate childcare.”
Claire Dove, chief executive of women’s enterprise and support centre Blackburne House, said the rise in female unemployment was a “grave situation” – but said organisations such as hers were encouraging employers to see the benefits of taking on women.