Working for equality

174,000 new flexible jobs could boost post-coved gender equality.

Research from Indeed and the government-backed Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) suggests hundreds of thousands of new flexible jobs could be created if employers were more transparent about job details. The research also suggests women would be likely to benefit the most from this move.

BIT analysed more than 780,000 job postings on Indeed.co.uk by 100,000 employers and found that prompting employers to clearly advertise flexible working options led to a 20 per cent increase in the number of jobs advertised as flexible. Its report concludes that if these ‘nudges’ were adopted on Indeed alone it would add at least 174,000 flexible jobs to the UK economy in a year. The research also analysed nearly 20 million job applications and showed that jobs with clear flexible working options could attract up to 30 per cent more applicants than those that did not.

An accompanying study by BIT found that men and women are equally attracted to adverts specifically advertising flexible work but greater transparency of flexible working arrangements would likely disproportionately benefit women, as – pre-pandemic – women were twice as likely to work flexibly.

Women are also more likely to have lost their job due to Covid-19 and new job postings data from Indeed show occupations that attract more women than men have recorded the heaviest declines in openings since the pandemic: food preparation & service (-83 per cent since 1 February 2020), beauty & wellness (-82 per cent) and hospitality & tourism (-77 per cent).

Despite the declines, the female employment rate remains historically high (72 per cent) but still lags male employment (78.4 per cent) and while a new wave of flexible roles could drive labour market participation amongst both men and women, the impact of such roles would be felt more strongly by women.

“Our commitment to flexible working is based on our desire to open up employment opportunities to people regardless of their sex or location,” said Minister for Women & Equalities, Liz Truss. “The shift for many people to work from home during the pandemic has changed mindsets and now is a chance to seize the opportunity of making flexible working the norm, rather than something employees have to specially request.

“The fact is that for many jobs there are invisible restrictions that hold people back – like the need to live in high-cost accommodation close to the centre of cities or maintain working arrangements that are very hard to combine with family or other responsibilities,” she added. “We now have the chance to break down these barriers and boost opportunities for everyone.”

Deepa Somasundari, senior director of strategic projects at the global job site Indeed, said: “We constantly test our products and use those learnings to build a more equitable system for those looking for work and in doing so make the hiring process fairer. Our work with the Behavioural Insights Team led us to make changes in the UK and internationally that help fulfill our mission of helping all people get jobs.

“We know people value flexible work opportunities and as a result of the pandemic, there is increasing expectation that jobs are designed with this in mind. For employers, this means reconsidering the notion that flexible work is a benefit and instead acknowledging it as a better way of working that could positively impact the lives of women and therefore society as a whole.”

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