UK: In the South-East female unemployment up by 141% in 2008 & by 39% in January 2009 Print E-mail

 London ~~ Thursday February 12, 2009, page 19

Women out of work: A town's struggle

By Sam Jones
Thirty-three thousand women lost their jobs in the south-east last autumn, putting a strain on places such as Gosport, where female unemployment has risen by 39% over the last month and 141% over the last year.

Karen Hicks, who emerged from a Jobcentre in the Hampshire town yesterday, is part of those miserable statistics. The 33-year-old decided to leave the armed forces welfare organisation she worked for last September after facing a third deployment to Afghanistan. She says she has applied for more than 200 jobs, but with little success. "This is about the worst time to change your career," she says. "It's a nightmare. I've been doing bar work, but that's not what I went to university for. I'm determined to get work and am going to keep plugging away. I have to - I'm tied to the area because I've got a house here."

Mary Jane Warburton is a decade younger but even less optimistic about her chances of finding a decent job in Gosport. "I've been looking for work for three or four months," she says. "I was working at McDonalds before and I was working 12 hours a day Monday to Friday, just to make ends meet."

Her situation is not unusual, judging by the group of young people lounging outside the Jobcentre, not far from the marina with its bobbing yachts. "About 75% of my female friends are looking for work," said Mary Jane. "My sister's got kids, so she's not working, but her partner can't find work. There's a gang of us - it's almost everyone I know."

She points at the shuttered front of Woolworths down the road. "There was a week's backlog at the Jobcentre when Woolies closed down," she says.

Some of her friends have given up and shipped out to nearby Portsmouth and Southampton. Those that have not are growing desperate. "Me and my mates get a tenner together when we can, buy some drink and boost it on the street."