The claim

“Women’s employment, the number of women in employment, is actually up 128,000 this quarter



and that is up 250,000 more women in work than at the time of the last election. I think that is encouraging.”




David Cameron MP, Prime Minister’s Questions, Wednesday 12 September 2012

The background

It’s that nagging women’s issue the PM just can’t seem to get away from: women in work.

Labour minister Chris Bryant was first off the blocks in today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Having scanned the latest employment figures he pointed to the rise in female redundancies and reminded the House that following the Cabinet reshuffle there are now nine government departments without a single female minister.

“What’s he got against women?”, Mr Bryant asked. David Cameron agreed there was more to be done both in getting women jobs, and jobs in politics.

Good answer, but did he get his facts right? It’s women’s work for FactCheck.

The analysis

Today’s figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the PM was right that in the last quarter the number of women in work rose by 128,000.

But he’s way off the mark on the rise since the last election.

ONS figures show that the number of women aged 16-64 in work in May-July 2010 was 13,522,000 and by May-July 2012 that had risen to 13,713,000.

That’s an increase of 191,000 – almost 60,000 less women in work than Mr Cameron claimed. It’s an astounding 30 per cent hike in the true figure.

Granted, any sort of growth is not to be sniffed at, but it is also worth us pointing out that since the election UK population growth has seen the number of economically active women (those who are either employed or actively seeking employment) climb by 278,000.

There are more women out there, working or looking for work, than since the election. So it makes sense to look at the rate of employment rather than just the numbers – the rate is more reliable because it shows the proportion of economically active women in work, aged 16+.

This is up 0.5 per cent since the election – from 65.6 per cent to 66.1 per cent between May-July 2010 and May-July 2012.

The problem is that the rate of unemployment has also risen – from 7 per cent to 7.4 per cent over the same period.

What’s more female redundancies are up – from 53,000 in May-July 2010 to 62,000 in the same period this year – that’s a rise in redundancy rates from 4.3 per cent to 5 percent.

Among men, redundancies have fallen from 88,000 to 81,000 since the election, with the rate down from 7 per cent to 6.3 per cent.

But it’s not that pretty a picture for men either – the rate of male unemployment has remained unchanged since the election at 8.6 per cent and the rate of employment has risen just 0.6 per cent to 76.3 per cent during the same period.

The verdict

The PM is right about growth in women’s employment the last quarter – but his numbers for growth since the election fall far wide of the mark.

Somehow he managed to pump the number of women in employment up by 30 per cent – claiming that there are 250,000 more women in work than there were in May 2010.

The real rise in women’s employment since the election is actually 191,000, according to ONS figures. We haven’t heard back from Number 10 yet what figures Mr Cameron was referring to.

But overall, FactCheck thinks the rate of employment is a much better indicator as that takes into account population rises – showing the proportion of women in work.

Since the election 278,000 more women have joined the workforce – either working or looking for work. And over this period, the rate of women’s employment has risen by 0.5 per cent. But the rate of unemployment has also risen by 0.4 per cent, and the number of female redundancies is up by 0.7 per cent.

What’s more, the total number of women claiming job seekers’ allowance in the UK has risen by 0.7 per cent since the election in May 2010 – adding 106,400 women to the dole queue.

By Emma Thelwell

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