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Women (Unemployment)

Volume 21: debated on Tuesday 30 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will list the number of women registered as unemployed for the last month for which figures are available; and what was the figure for 12 months previously.

At 11 March 1982 the provisional number of women registered as unemployed in the United Kingdom was 842,504. The corresponding figure for March 1981 was 701,544.

Bearing in mind that those unemployment figures exclude large numbers of women who are not eligible to be included in them and that the new method of compiling figures from October will exclude other women who are not receiving benefits, will the Minister estimate how many women will in future be excluded from the unemployment register? What arrangements is he making to include them when the unemployment figures are announced so that we have a real assessment of the level of unemployment?

It is difficult to give an accurate estimate, but I would judge that in the last category about 10,000 who are at present registered at jobcentres as seeking work will not henceforth register at unemployment benefit offices because they will not be entitled to unemployment benefit. We shall certainly try to estimate the numbers and to relate them regularly to the unemployment figures.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as many women are employed in textiles and in other industries which are suffering particularly from the world recession, emphasis should be placed on training women in the new technology, and schools should encourage girls to take up such opportunities?

I agree with my hon. Friend that women in manufacturing industry have probably suffered disproportionately because they have been concentrated in the lower-skilled work. Taking the economy as a whole, however, women—many of whom are engaged in the service industries—have done rather better than men. Nevertheless, I take my hon. Friend's point that the need for training and retraining is essential, and we are pursuing that policy.