The government faces a crisis in women's unemployment, and its current economic strategy risks making the situation much worse, says the Trades Union Congress.
The warning came at the TUC women's conference, which begins in Eastbourne today (Wednesday 9 March 2011).
While more men lost their jobs in the recent recession than women and more men than women remain out of work, over the last year male employment has begun to recover (with a 238,000 increase in employment levels and a 0.4 point increase in the rate) while female employment has fallen (19,000 over the same period and a 0.5 point fall in the rate).
During the past 12 months overall male unemployment has fallen by 31,000 (with the rate falling by 0.3 percentage points), while female unemployment has risen by 71,000 (with the rate increasing by 0.5 percentage points).
Although they face a far higher risk of unemployment overall, the situation is similar for young people (aged 18-24). Unemployment amongst young men has dropped slightly by 0.4 percentage points, while there has been an increase of 1.6 points for young women.
TUC analysis of official Labour Force Survey figures from July-September 2010 shows that in some parts of the country as many as one in five young women (20 per cent) aged between 16-24 are currently unemployed.
The worst hit areas are Merseyside, where unemployment among young women has risen by 11 per cent since the recession started, the West Midlands (10 per cent increase) and Scotland and Yorkshire (which have both seen nine per cent increases).
This rise in female unemployment comes at a time when the number of jobs in sectors where may women work is still far lower than was the case at the start of the recession.
Since the downturn there has been a fall of 34,000 in retail vacancies, a 14,000 fall in administrative and secretarial jobs, the number of education vacancies has fallen by 20,000 and the number of jobs in health and social work has fallen by 18,000.
With redundancies in the public sector - where more than a third of women in work are employed - set to increase as a result of government spending cuts, and slow economic growth likely to mean that vacancy levels remain low across 'female' sectors like retail and admin, the TUC believes women are in for a tough few years.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "While the government focuses all its energy on cuts, our unemployment crisis continues to grow.
"The UK desperately needs an economic strategy that prioritises growth and jobs to bring revenues in and the deficit down. The current plan of deep, rapid cuts is causing job losses to mount and sending our economy in the wrong direction.
"Women worried about losing their jobs or vital public services in the cuts should join at least 100,000 people coming from all parts of the country - including public sector workers, faith groups, community organisations, volunteers, campaigners and families - on the TUC's March for the Alternative on Saturday 26 March in London."
* The TUC's analysis of women's unemployment is available at www.tuc.org.uk/extras/womenconference.pdf (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat file).