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Unemployment

Volume 593: debated on Thursday 26 February 2015

Female long-term unemployment has fallen by more than 90,000 on the year—the largest annual fall on record––to 237,000, demonstrating the success of the Government’s long-term economic plan.

Under this Government there are more young women who have been out of work for over a year than there were four years ago. Does the Minister agree that that is a terrible indictment of the Government’s so-called long-term economic plan?

I am pleased the hon. Gentleman recognises that we have a long-term economic plan that is also successful—two things that the Labour party does not have. The previous Government removed people who were about to become long-term unemployed from the claimant count by putting them on training programmes. We have stopped that charade and now have an honest measure. We have a record number of women in work, a record female employment rate, a record number of older women in work, a record older female employment rate, and a female participation rate that is close to the highest on record—a record of which I am very proud.

In the last year I have dealt with a number of cases concerning older women who have previously been in work but are now struggling to secure a new position having found themselves unemployed. They often feel that discrimination plays a part in the refusals they have been given, but they simply do not have the means to challenge the companies and organisations involved, so that discrimination is left unchallenged. What should women who find themselves in that situation do?

First, as I said in answer to the hon. Member for Livingston (Graeme Morrice), a record number of older women are in work and we have a record employment rate for older females—that is obviously good news. For those in the position that the hon. Lady sets out, we have looked at programmes to help older workers return to work. New pilots were announced in the autumn statement last year to look at barriers to work, and at our sector-based work academies and work experience programmes that are particularly tailored to the needs of older workers.

Unemployment is down by 37% in my constituency. Does my hon. Friend welcome the fact that UK women are getting into work faster than in any other country in the G7, which shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan is working in my constituency?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question and I will be visiting her constituency tomorrow to speak to local businesses—

The hon. Lady says, “What a surprise”, but my hon. Friend is holding an event to talk about getting more disabled people back into work with a number of excellent local employers. The hon. Lady should congratulate her on that, rather than being churlish about it.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I cannot do better than report what the OECD said, which was that we had a long-term economic plan and effective economic policies, and that the performance of the labour market in the United Kingdom was “remarkable”.

Order. Progress is very slow and we must speed up matters. We can be guided in that by a legendary parliamentarian, Mr Philip Davies.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, aside from the strong record he has outlined, about 80% of the growth in female employment in the past four years has come in managerial, professional and technical professions?

The number of young women claiming jobseeker’s allowance for more than one year is up by 30%. Bankers have done very well under this Government, so why does the Minister not use a tax on bank bonuses to pay for a guaranteed job for young women?

It is fascinating. Only a few weeks ago, in the debate on Labour’s job guarantee, the Secretary of State pointed out that Labour had spent the bank bonus tax 11 times with 11 different policies. If spending it for a 12th time is the best the hon. Lady can do, she needs to go back to the drawing board.