Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Recession and Recovery in Scotland: The Impact on Women's Labor Market Participation beyond the Headline Statistics

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Recession and Recovery in Scotland: The Impact on Women's Labor Market Participation beyond the Headline Statistics

Article excerpt

Introduction

Scotland entered into recession in the third quarter of 2008 and remained there for five quarters until the third quarter of 2009. The Scottish economy experienced a peak to trough decline in output of 5.6%, compared to 6.3% for the UK as a whole (Gillespie, 2013: 14). The recovery in Scotland proceeded at a relatively slow pace and it was not until the end of 2013 that the lost output experienced during the great recession was recovered. The impact of recession on women and men depends on their different starting positions in the paid labor market, occupational grouping and allocation of earnings (Rubery, 1988/2010; Rubery and Rafferty, 2012) as well as their relative positions with respect to the state in terms of welfare provision (Sainsbury, 1996). Analysis of the headline employment figures indicate that the "employment gap" between women and men narrowed significantly during Scotland's economic recovery, as women's employment increased at a faster rate than men's. On the face of it, economic recovery has been a "good news" story for Scotland's women. However, focusing solely on headline employment statistics gives a partial analysis that could underestimate the true impact of recession and recovery on gender equality in paid labor markets (Harkness, 2013). Similarly, a focus on paid work alone is limited in assessing gender equality, given the gendered division of labor in households where women undertake the majority of unpaid household work, particularly care. Making use of secondary data and official labor market statistics, this paper aims to develop a more in-depth analysis of the impact of the great recession and subsequent economic recovery on the labor market position of women in Scotland by considering the nature of employment growth and the impact of recession and recovery on unpaid work.

Employment and Unemployment in Scotland

As Table 1 shows, the "great recession," defined as the period between December-February 2008 and December-February 2010, resulted in a significant fall in the overall level of employment in Scotland. Despite the recovery being somewhat long and erratic, the numbers in employment had returned to their pre-recession levels by 2015. The most significant change is that the gap between male and female employment rates narrowed signif- icantly over the course of the recession and recovery, from 9.2% in 2008 to 2.2% at the beginning of 2016. This is the result of female employment rising at a much faster pace than male employment post-recession. Female employment is now higher than pre-recession levels and indeed since comparable records began in 1992 (Office for National Statistics, 2016a). Changes in the social security system, in particular the increase in the state pension age for women to bring it into line with men, has resulted in more women working longer or seeking additional employment to augment private pension provisions, may have accounted for some of the increase in female employment (Office for National Statistics, 2013; Webster, 2014; Scottish Government, 2015a, 2016).

During the 2008-09 recession, total employment in Scotland fell by 91,000, over two-thirds of the decrease was accounted for by the decline in male employment. Therefore, the impact in employment terms has been greater for men than women. This is not unique to Scotland and indeed the tendency for this recession to have a disproportionate impact on the employment of men led some commentators to describe it as a "mancession," a phrase coined in the USA to describe the trends in unemployment in the recession's early stages (Perry, 2009; Wall, 2009). The impact of any economic downturn tends to be borne mostly by men because there is a greater concentration of male workers in cyclically sensitive industries, such as construction and manufacturing. Over the whole period between 2008 and 2016 the number of men in employment increased by 0.7% whereas the number of women in employment increased by 4. …

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