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Women’s job struggles are ‘disturbing’

A forum has been called today on the toll taken on the island's women by unemployment, with many said to have been forced to seek jobs overseas.

“Women Hearing Women”, a gathering to share the challenges facing women, was set by Kim Wilson, the Progressive Labour Party MP for Sandys South Central.

“It's incredibly important to start a dialogue,” Ms Wilson told The Royal Gazette. “I am hearing more and more stories of distress and concern.”

She highlighted “disturbing instances” of middle-aged women hit by the wave of consolidations and redundancies in the international business and banking sector.

“These are women who may have little postsecondary education who have worked their way up through a hard work ethic and determination, who are now being made redundant.

“Women in their 40s, 50s or 60s, who have managed to reach middle management positions, have lost their jobs through downsizing and redundancy and are having to enter an already distressed job market.

“A lot of these people have mortgages obtained when they were receiving beneficial rates, such as through employment at a bank. You can imagine how difficult it would be for them, especially with children.”

Ms Wilson pointed out that the 2015 Labour Force Survey, issued last month, showed there were 42 per cent fewer woman seeking jobs last year than in 2014.

“That means they have either given up, or they have relocated to other jurisdictions in search of a job. Neither is acceptable.

“The phrase ‘economic emigration' has been coined for persons who are highly skilled but leave because they can't find a job.

“I really wish there were better statistics to keep track of how many people are still leaving — someone in my own family has moved to the UK with their children for better opportunities. I think some of the men who are leaving do so for different reasons than the women.”

Today's forum from noon until 1.30pm is being held in the Anglican Cathedral's meeting room, aimed at “starting a conversation among women, sharing their concerns and supporting each other”.

“I'd like to see this grow and draw these issues to a national level,” Ms Wilson said. “There are similar issues affecting male unemployment, but for women it is different.”

The Labour Force Survey shows higher unemployment for men, at 8 per cent, versus 5 per cent for women, but Ms Wilson warned of the impact on families where the primary breadwinner is female.

She also pointed out that construction jobs through the airport redevelopment and hotel projects stood to employ more men than women.

“At the end of the day, we are all impacted.”

Consolidations and the accompanying redundancies were likely to continue, Ms Wilson said, adding: “Unfortunately, this is part of the new world order.

“Organisations are concerned about their bottom line. If they are able to provide the same service and degree of productivity on reduced staffing levels, I think we're going to see more amalgamations of this nature.”

Expressing hope that the forum would “grow legs and move in other directions”, Ms Wilson said women could collaborate to help one another.

“However it looks, help is what's needed,” she said. “Obviously I will be taking copious notes.”

She said she would raise concerns in the House of Assembly with a view to ensuring that “appropriate action will be taken to address the daunting challenges women in our community are facing on a daily basis”.

Starting dialogue: MP Kim Wilson

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Published February 02, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 02, 2016 at 8:46 am)

Women’s job struggles are ‘disturbing’

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