Figures ‘hide women’s job-seeking difficulties’

ALMOST 90% of working-age women are ‘economically active’, but the figure does not always offer a true reflection of the business environment, the head of a networking group has said.

Kate Wright                                                              Picture: ROB CURRIE. (29532688)
Kate Wright Picture: ROB CURRIE. (29532688)

The number of women either in work or looking for a job is higher than the most recent figures available for the UK.

However, Kate Wright, co- founder of the Diversity Network, said women were still more likely to work part-time or on zero-hours contracts and be in lower-paid work.

And she said the figures – published in the latest Jersey Opinions and Lifestyle Survey – did not reveal some of the serious difficulties that woman job-seekers encountered.

The survey found that 87% of working-age women were ‘economically active’ – working or seeking work.

It is a higher level than in the UK. In the last figures from there, from 2018, 74% were economically active.

The new figure is also higher than at the time of the 2011 census, when 77% of women in Jersey were economically active. But it is down slightly on last year’s level, before coronavirus made its presence felt.

‘Economically inactive’ people are typically those who are under 16 or over 64, are students, are looking after family and home, or are long-term sick or disabled.

Mrs Wright said: ‘Research from various sources, including The Diversity Network’s own carried out earlier this year, suggests that the experience of women of working age in Jersey varies hugely depending on personal circumstances, and isn’t as positive as the high number might suggest.’

She pointed out that maternity pay was much lower in Jersey than in the UK and childcare costs were relatively high – limiting the choices of jobs available to mothers.

She added: ‘We found that if you are a woman from a lower socio-economic background, Jersey is probably not an inclusive place to work or seek work, especially if you also have child-caring responsibilities.

‘To put it in context, having caring responsibilities had almost the same negative impact on an individual’s ability to secure employment as a criminal record.’

Mrs Wright conceded that progress was being made, and that two prominent business groups in Jersey were currently headed by women. Jennifer Carnegie is president of the Chamber of Commerce, while Lisa Springate chairs the Institute of Directors.

But Mrs Wright said: ‘I would say there is still a huge difference in the experience of so many women in the workplace compared to their male counterparts, and this is what we really need to focus on.

‘Even in professional occupations in Jersey, which are made up of roughly equal numbers of men and women overall, you are half as likely as a woman to be in a managerial role as your male colleagues.’

She also said that the coronavirus pandemic was having a greater impact on women and minority groups in Jersey, and added: ‘It is more important than ever that we look behind the statistics to really understand what is happening, how we can best support people who are struggling right now and how we can ensure inequalities decrease rather than become even greater.’

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