WOMEN are “taking the brunt” of the unemployment crisis in Scotland, with almost 400 losing their jobs each day as the downturn continues to bite.
A further 16,000 Scots joined the dole queue between October and December last year as unemployment returned to its recession level peak. There are now 231,000 Scots out of work.
The situation is worse north of the Border than across the UK, with one in the three of the 48,000 jobs lost UK-wide being from Scotland.
Youth unemployment has topped 100,000 in Scotland, prompting concerns about a lack of urgency on the part of the Scottish Government to solve the crisis.
Unemployment edged up to 2.67 million across the UK, the smallest rise in almost a year, although the figures are expected to continue rising.
Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “Scotland now has a national unemployment crisis that is fast spiralling out of control.
“A third of all jobs being lost in the UK are in Scotland, nearly 400 women are losing their job every day and youth unemployment is now more than 100,000.
“On the day that unemployment in Scotland creeped ever nearer the quarter of a million mark, Alex Salmond was making speeches about separation in London – that tells us everything we need to know about his priorities.”
The figures came as the Bank of England published its quarterly report on inflation. It said the UK economy would “zigzag” this year, dipping in and out of growth, but would avoid going back into recession.
The unemployment rate is still higher in Scotland than it is in the UK as a whole, with 8.6 per cent of Scots not in work compared to 8.4 per cent across the United Kingdom.
The barriers facing women in Scotland’s jobs market lies behind the country’s chronic problems. The number of women on the dole queue jumped by 24,000 to 105,000 – an increase of almost quarter. The number of women in work dropped by 34,000 – about 377 a day – to 1.18 million.
By contrast, there was a small fall in the number men unemployed and rise among those in work.
David Gibbons-Wood, a senior lecturer in economics at Robert Gordon University, said women often choose to work in low-skilled jobs like the service industry.
“I think they’re possibly taking the brunt of this recession,” he said. “This is the first service industry downturn and will it affect women more because there has been a tremendous expansion in female employment in the last 20 or 30 years.
“These figures cover the run-up to Christmas. Everyone on the high street was finding it hard and that’s where many women are employed. So they’re feeling the effect of this.”
The figures also show an increasing reliance on part-time jobs across the UK which rose by 70,000, masking a big fall in full-time work.
Work and pensions minister Lord Freud said: “This clearly shows we are by no means out of the woods yet. But it is quite a mixed picture. There are signs of stability.”
The number of 16-to-24-year olds unemployed hit 102,000 in Scotland between October and December up 2,000 on the previous quarter.
The number of 18-to-24-year olds unemployed has risen by 23,000 on the year, a rise of 38 per cent.
The employment rate for 18 to 24-year-olds north of the Border was 59.4 per cent, compared to 56.5 per cent for the UK as a whole.
Scotland Office minister David Mundell said that youth unemployment continued to be a “cause of great concern”.
To help address this, he said Scottish Secretary Michael Moore would chair a national convention on youth employment in Dundee next month, which he claimed would bring together ministers from both the UK and Scottish governments, employers and the “many organisations involved in supporting young people into work”.
Finance secretary John Swinney said the latest jobless figures made clear that “we need further sustained action to support Scotland’s economic recovery”.
However, he added: “The Westminster government has failed to come forward with the stimulus of increased capital spending to get growth and confidence back into the UK economy.
“That is why the Scottish Government delivered a budget for growth, passed last week by the Scottish Parliament, which boosts public sector capital investment, takes action to tackle unemployment and, in particular, youth unemployment, and enhances economic security.”
While the unemployment total includes people who are out of work but not eligible for benefits, the latest statistics showed a slight drop in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. This fell by 200 in January to 141,200. However, this is still 1,500 more than the same time last year.
Over the period October to December last year 2,458,000 Scots were in work – 28,000 fewer than the same quarter in 2010.
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie urged the SNP administration to “finally accept that their Plan MacB was a failure”.
Mr Rennie said: “They should accept that the UK government is right to spend what we can to stimulate the economy without borrowing to a level that is unaffordable.”
Laurie Russell, chief executive of the Glasgow-based Wise Group, which helps unemployed people back into work, backed the Scottish Government’s recent £30m budget to address youth unemployment.
“It is important for the government to make more investment like this, to address the many issues at the root of the unemployment crisis,” he said.
“In times of austerity, the government must ensure that money is being used effectively to create as many new sustainable jobs as possible.”
Sarah Glynn, of the recently formed Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, said not all people who want a job are included in the statistics.
“The real picture is even worse,” she added. “The great majority of unemployed people are desperate to find a job – but, as more are finding, there are very few jobs to be found, and living on benefits is not easy.”