Unemployment dropped from 9th to 11th place this year. Interestingly, a significantly higher proportion of women mentioned this trend than men, perhaps suggesting that women feel less security in keeping their jobs in such times. Respondents present unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment, as something that cuts across sectors and countries.
Mothers worry about the broken promises of education whereas fathers have had a much more mixed attitude to why their sons should complete an education, since they never did – or never could.
The burden of women in a world of austerity
Unemployment remains a major concern for individuals and will continue to be one over the coming years. Interestingly, however, perceptions among female respondents to a Global Agenda Council survey suggest that women seem to give more importance to this issue than men. There are a number of factors that explain the difference of perceptions between the genders.
In Europe, the financial crisis has led governments to pursue austerity policies, which have led to cuts in public sector employment. Developments in female labour market participation in the past 10-20 years have, to a large extent, been jobs in the public sector. The messages from governments and municipalities looking to 2013 are that cuts, and thus the reduction in the public workforce, is not finished. These developments are seen across the EU.
The austerity policies have not only led to job cuts, but also have put more pressure on single mothers and women with ailing parents. Women are increasingly taking on basic care functions that were previously “outsourced” to the public sector. Women trying to juggle their roles as employee and that of family caregiver will find it difficult to show the “hyper-flexibility” that many feel is the order of the day when it comes to who will be laid off and who keeps their job.
Another factor may be that mothers worry more about the futures of their offspring than the fathers.
I am mentoring some young boys that will soon finish their vocational education. All the kids, except for one, come from broken families. After meeting the fathers and mothers of these kids, it is clear that the mothers are more concerned about the employment opportunities of their boys. If they do not get a job right after having finished education, they wonder, will they be at a bigger risk of living at the fringe of the labour market with long periods of unemployment and poorly paid jobs?
In that sense, mothers worry about the “broken promises of education”, whereas the fathers have had a much more mixed attitude to why their sons should complete an education, since they never did.
This only partly explains why women seem to be more concerned about the unemployment situation and reminds us that the unemployment crisis that has unfolded in many parts of the world hits certain groups in society harder than others, such as youth, women, people over 50 and minorities. All groups should deserve the same attention in efforts to resolve this major challenge.