More than half a million women – 512,700 – are now claiming job seekers allowance – the highest figure since April 1996.
A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission considering the status of women in the UK has warned it will take another 60 years – or 12 general elections – to achieve an equal number of women MPs.
Sex and Power also found that the number of women in the Cabinet has fallen to its lowest level in a decade. Women are similarly absent from the top tables of media, business, the judiciary, the arts and the education sector.
Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said:
“It’s 2011 and women remain largely excluded from positions of power and influence in virtually every sphere of life – the media, the judiciary, the education sector and more. There is a shocking absence of women in politics – men MPs outnumber women 4 to 1, the number of women in the Cabinet is at a 10 year low.
“The absence of women from positions of power across the country is especially worrying, given that women today face an uncertain future. The number of women out of a job reach is now at a 30 year high – more than a million women are now unemployed; at the same time women are facing widening inequality as cuts to public services and benefits bite.
“This report must act as a call to arms; the government and others can no longer turn a blind eye to this injustice, wishing and hoping it will sort itself out.
“Decisions that affect us all, be it how to balance the nation’s budget, or our preferred system of welfare, are being made without women round the table. We look forward to hearing all political parties respond to today’s findings and explain their plans to challenge this stark and persistent injustice.
“Fawcett believes that Government should lead the response: David Cameron must honor his pledge to run a Cabinet where women make up one third of the Ministers. In times of economic difficulty it becomes more not less important to have a range of voices and experiences inform government policy.
“Unless all political parties take radical action to open up politics to women, calls on business and the like to open up their top tables to women sound hollow.”