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Women hit by ‘double-whammy’ as economy evolves

Men are picking up the best paid new roles while almost 400,000 females have lost jobs in the public sector, banking and retail since 2011, RSA finds.

Women bearing the brunt of job losses, new research says (Philip Toscano?PA)
Women bearing the brunt of job losses, new research says (Philip Toscano?PA)

Women are being “left behind” as the economy evolves, with the best paid new jobs going to men, new figures suggest.

A report by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) found almost 400,000 jobs held by women in the public sector, banking and retail have been lost since 2011.

The charity warned of a “double-whammy” that has hurt female workers, who have lost out to the best paid jobs in the “new economy” and borne the brunt of austerity measures in the public sector.

Female workers have further lost out because of the fall in private-sector roles such as retail cashiers, personal assistants and hairdressers, according to the analysis.

The RSA’s Field Guide to the Future of Work found programmers and software developers as well as HR managers and directors were among the top 20 fastest growing occupations, while retail cashiers and checkout operators were among the fastest shrinking.

Many jobs in the new economy are well-paid but the research found only one in 20 new coders and programmers are women.

Benedict Dellot, head of the RSA Future Work Centre, said the “cliche of tech bros” was “entirely warranted”.

We knew that the tech industry was highly gendered but the scale of the problem is shocking Benedict Dellot

Mr Dellot said: “The advent of autonomous vehicles, personal voice assistants and picking and packing machines in warehouses shows that the age of automation is well and truly upon us.

“Contrary to what many people believe, this has not led to widespread job losses.

“Unemployment is at its lowest level in 45 years and many good quality jobs are being created in the high-value technology sector.

“But the forces of creative destruction can be brutal for those on the losing side.

“The evidence is stacking up that women are being left behind in the new economy.

“The cliche of tech bros is entirely warranted. Barely one in 20 new coders and programmers are women.

“We knew that the tech industry was highly gendered but the scale of the problem is shocking.”

He added: “The good news is that there is time to respond. We are still in the early stages of the age of automation and many jobs are yet to be affected.

“The challenge for government, employers and educators is to make sure the 2020s play out differently to the 2010s so that everyone – regardless of gender, age or location – shares in the spoils of new technology.

“This means establishing Personal Training Accounts to power lifelong learning and career changes, experimenting with Job Security Councils, as they have in Sweden, to give workers greater voice over which technology is deployed in the workplace, shifting the burden of our tax system away from workers to those who own the ‘machines’ and adopting new standards that prevent excessive monitoring and surveillance in the workplace.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to eliminating inequality in the workplace and have seen more women in work than ever before, with the gender pay gap lower than it has ever been. And we are going even further by investing in schemes to support women who want to return to work.”

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