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Location: Reading
Date: January 31, 2024
Smart Works Unemployment Index 2023 image

Last year, we launched the Smart Works Unemployment Index, an annual study looking at the challenges faced by women whilst unemployed. This year’s national analysis has been created with the help of 171 Reading clients. 

The report reflects conversations with over 3,700 women from across the UK, and confirms that the vast majority found that it has been much harder to find work in the last 12 months. Although we hoped the job market may have improved after our inaugural report, this year’s has revealed that the circumstances under which women are seeking work have deteriorated.

Clients told us that overly demanding application processes and a more competitive recruitment market, contributed to the struggle to find work amid the cost-of-living crisis. Our report highlights these barriers and the effects these challenges have on their lives and those of their loved ones- both financially and psychologically.

Women across our county apply for an average of 33 jobs, compared to 28 reported in Smart Works’ 2022 pilot study, with 32% of our clients out of work for over a year before they use our services. On average, women spent 23 hours a week applying for jobs, only to be invited to 3 interviews or less. The lack of feedback received on applications affects our clients motivation leaving 62% of women feeling less confident after the job application process.

This year’s Index revealed women have been disproportionately affected by the cost of living and as a result feel pressured to accept ‘any’ job. 68% of our clients applied for lower paid and lower skilled work, compared to 62% in 2022.

Despite these circumstances, women remain determined. For 27% of women, their top motivator to get back into work was financial security, with wanting to gain a ‘sense of purpose and identity’ coming in second. As one client shared with us, When you’ve got a job, you’ve got a purpose. It’s nice to feel wanted, to feel that you’re doing something.” All the women in this study came to Smart Works ahead of an upcoming job interview and 74% have since secured a job. After visiting Smart Works and using the charity’s dressing and coaching services, 95% of our clients say they feel more confident and 91% feel clearer about their own skills and experiences.

To help make the job market more accessible to women, our report shares recommendations to employers and provides simple methods that support our mission in getting women back into work.












Read the national report here.