Welcome to the "Women's recession".

And, sorry sisters, but it's just about to get worse. This week's stark report from the Fawcett Society is the most convincing proof yet that all those cheery headlines recently about falling unemployment are only part of the story. A few more jobs for the boys have been at the expense of work for women because, while the majority of those losing their jobs are female, women make up only a minority of those finding work.

That's largely because two-thirds of women's employment is in the hard-hit public sector. There's an element too of men who are unable to find full-time work displacing women from the part-time jobs they rely on to fit around caring responsibilities. And changes to the way second earners in a household qualify for tax credits, combined with exorbitant childcare costs, are leaving some women better off on the dole. That's the diametric opposite of the Coalition's stated determination to "make work pay".

The Fawcett report uses UK statistics but it's the same story in Scotland. So the welcome fall in Scottish unemployment last month concealed a quarterly rise in female unemployment of 8000. That's close to 100 every day.

The report concludes that "failure to take action risks creating a 'female unfriendly' labour market characterised by persistent and rising levels of women's unemployment, diminishing pay levels and a widening gender pay gap." The public sector jobs shake-out is only just beginning. An estimated 700,000 more council and civil service jobs will go by 2018. If the present pattern continues, that will leave the UK with nearly one-and-a-half million women unemployed. The previous highest ever figure was 1,340,000 in 1984, the same year as the Sex Discrimination Act. How depressing.

The governments in both Westminster and Edinburgh were trying to put a brave face on the figures yesterday. "We have more women in work than ever before," declared Equalities Minister Maria Miller. Yes, Maria, but that's because there are more women in the UK than ever before, ie the population is rising. The same applies to the Scottish Government's claim that "the number of women in employment in Scotland has increased by 6000" in the past year. They also conveniently forget the women's official retirement age is rising, so fewer of us are retiring.

The figures that matter are the unemployment rate and the statistics for women who have been out of work for more than a year, which have seen a 150% rise in 24 months. Add to that the number of women who are both low paid and underemployed (unable to get the hours they want). And throw in the below-inflation rise (cut) in the national minimum wage. As two-thirds of those receiving it are women, it means women's pay starting to fall behind men's again.

The other claim from the Scottish Government is that "the number of women unemployed has decreased by 21,000". What they don't mention is their own statisticians attribute this not to women finding work but women dropping out of the figures because they are no longer looking for work. They probably include hundreds of their own civil servants who took severance packages. They also include grandmothers caring for grandchildren who cannot sign on as this entails a commitment to begin work within two weeks if a job comes up.

What to do? Both UK and Scottish governments talk about "shovel-ready infrastructure" projects. Two thoughts about this. As these are predominantly construction and IT jobs, then we need more than token efforts to combat gender stereotyping in these sectors. Secondly, such projects should include soft infrastructure. I could pave Sauchiehall Street with the Scottish Government's good intentions on childcare but there is still no statutory requirement to provide it for nought to three-year olds. Let's use infrastructure money to re-open nurseries and the after-school clubs that have closed, ready for the economic pick-up. It's hard to imagine a more effective way of getting women back to work than free childcare.