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Number of women in the workplace hits a 21-year high

IMPROVING job statistics have seen the number of women in work reach a 21-year-high, but at the cost of pay slipping back faster than that of men.

The latest employment figures were welcomed by ministers at Holyrood and Wewstminster as further evidence of economic recovery.

But Green MSP Alison Johnstone pointed to other statistics showing that average weekly earnings in Scotland are down by 2.6 % in the past year to £522 - and women have seen a 3.2 % drop, £15 a week, double the percentage fall for men.

Ms Johnstone said: "The cost of living is central to everyone's concerns, so it's worrying to see a fall in earnings in Scotland, especially for women. This drop means women are getting by on average with £60 a month less, while costs such as rent, transport and energy continue to rise.

"While the number of women in employment is to be welcomed this masks a cost-of-living problem we could be tackling."

Grahame Smith, the Scottish Trades Union Congress General Secretary welcomed the general trend but stressed: "It is important to note that today's statistics do not include any new information on the quality of jobs created or indeed the performance of real wages in Scotland, which of course continue to decline at UK level."

The figures showed there were 196,000 Scots out of work - including those not eligible for benefits - with the total down by 7,000 over the period August to October.

There was also a rise of 11,000 on the number of people in employment over the three months, with this now standing at 2,546,000 - 83,000 higher than the same period last year.

The number of women in employment has now reached 1,233,000, with the Scottish Government hailing this total as the highest since 1992.

The unemployment rate in Scotland continues to be lower than that for the UK as a whole, at 7.1% north of the border compared to 7.4%. The employment rate is also higher in Scotland, at 72.6%, compared with an average of 72% across the UK.

Meanwhile, the number of Scots who are out of work and claiming jobseeker's allowance has dropped by 2,900 from October, to a new total of 115,900 in November - 23,300 less than a year ago.

The Scottish Government welcomed the rise in the number of women in employment. Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance, who recently led a Holyrood debate on the issue, said the "very welcome news" came in the wake of Scottish Government action to "tackle the barriers faced by women seeking employment that prevent them from contributing to Scotland's economic growth".

Finance Secretary John Swinney said the unemployment statistics were "another positive sign that employment in Scotland continues to increase and that Scotland's economic recovery is ongoing".

He said: "Scotland has a higher employment rate, lower unemployment rate and lower inactivity rate than England, Wales or Northern Ireland."

The UK headline jobless rate of 7.4% was the lowest since spring 2009, prompting Prime Minister David Cameron to tell MPs the figures showed that "the plan is working".

But Labour leader Ed Miliband, while welcoming the news, said more people are working part-time because they could not get the hours they need, and Labour's Scottish finance spokesman Iain Gray said: "There are still almost 75,000 more people out of work than when the SNP came to power in 2007, and unemployment is stagnating at a very high level."

He also stressed: "We really need to see the figures for full-time, part-time, permanent and temporary posts across all sectors, which are not yet available, to properly understand the landscape for jobs across Scotland before we start celebrating. A recovery based on falling wage levels and insecure jobs is no recovery at all."

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