Four jobseekers per vacancy

Unison said its study showed the scale of the jobs ‘crisis’ and follows loss of 500,000 public-sector jobs since 2010

Almost four people are chasing every job vacancy in Britain, rising to more than 20 in some parts of the country, new research has revealed.

A study by Unison found that the worst area was the Isle of Wight, with almost 24 jobseekers per vacancy, followed by Hackney in London, with more than 20.

There are at least five people for every vacancy in 113 local authorities, and over 10 in 26 of those, said the union.

London was found to be one of the worst regions, with more than 10 jobseekers per vacancy in a third of the capital’s 32 boroughs.

Unison said its study showed the scale of the jobs “crisis” and follows the loss of 500,000 public-sector jobs since the coalition came to power.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: “The scale of the ongoing jobs crisis is deeply worrying.

“Three long years of cuts – with more to come – and still there are not enough jobs to go around.

“The government has got it wrong on the recession and it has sacrificed our recovery. As well as laying waste to our public services, cuts have a stranglehold on the private sector.

“The government does have a choice. Use the budget to outline a bold strategy for jobs and growth. Make people feel secure in their jobs and they are more likely to spend.

“Give public-sector workers a decent pay rise and more money will flow through tills in local shops and businesses, helping our beleaguered high streets.

“The most damaging thing the government could do is to plough on regardless with its reckless anti-growth, no hope, cuts strategy.” © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Sheryl Sandberg’s new book is causing uproar

Facebook’s chief operating officer has written about how women can achieve career success. It has resulted in an almighty row

Age: 43

Appearance: The Corrs’ older half-sister.

I know her – she’s the CEO of Yahoo!. No, that’s Marissa Mayer. Sandberg is Facebook’s chief operating officer and the first woman on its board.

So I was close! They’re both alliterative-named women in charge of modern stuff. Yes. So close.

Why is SS in the news, then? Added an “If you don’t know what you’ve done, I’m not going to tell you” button for status updates? Turned the two ‘o’s in the Facebook logo into little ovaries? Had a child and named it “Like/Dislike”? None of those. She has written a book called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, about how women can best “lean into” (rather than turn away from) career success, and set up a foundation to help them do so.

Let me guess – it is a feminist tract that has caused outrage among commentators who question her ability to talk from a position of privilege about the lives of the majority of women? Yes, with the added twist that they have been frequently doing so without reading the book.

Impossible! No one in the media would ever dream of saying, printing or rendering in pixels anything that hadn’t been thoroughly researched, considered and investigated from all sides! Alas, some would and some have. The biggest row began with an article by Jodi Kantor (who did appear to have read the book) in the New York Times, which was sceptical about Sandberg and her thesis and included an out-of-context quote from an interview elsewhere that gave a negative impression of her, which the original piece didn’t.

Then what happened? Our own Daily Mail ran a piece that further distorted everything, Maureen Dowd followed up in the New York Times with another sceptical piece, alleging Sandberg’s book and foundation were just moneymaking ventures.

And then? The NYT printed corrections to her article and Kantor’s, but by then everyone was off and running – especially in the blogosphere – and barely even pretending to have read the book, or anything, before laying into Sandberg, and hard.

Life’s a bag of utter balls sometimes, isn’t it? You got that right, my friend. Still a backlash against the backlash now seems to be starting, so maybe we’ll see a considered result in the end.

Do say: “I’m going to get that book out of the library to see what I think.”

Don’t say: “A thousand online commentators can’t be wrong.” © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Should I accept a promotion without a payrise?

I don’t know whether to refuse more work while remaining on my current pay, or embrace the opportunity to beef up my CV while being underpaid

Each Friday and Monday we publish the problems that will feature in a forthcoming Dear Jeremy advice column in the Guardian Money supplement so that readers can offer their own advice and suggestions. We then print the best of your comments alongside Jeremy’s own insights. Here is the latest dilemma – what are your thoughts?

I’ve been employed in a secretarial/support position for the past two years. There have been many changes to my role within that time, and I have taken on and lost various responsibilities.

My line manager, who previously did my job, has struggled in her position and taken the decision to leave the company. I am very worried it will be assumed that I will take on her responsibilities.

While I relish the opportunity to learn and move forward in my career, I know for a fact the company will refuse to pay me more for it. I have pushed several times for a pay rise but got nowhere.

My dilemma is, do I dig my heels in and refuse to take on this work while remaining on a secretarial pay grade, or should I embrace the opportunity to learn more things and beef up my CV while knowing I am underpaid?

• For Jeremy’s and readers’ advice on a work issue, send a brief email to Please note that he is unable to answer questions of a legal nature or reply personally. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

One in seven women are made redundant after maternity leave

‘Sad and shocking’ poll reveals maternity leave can mean demotion, stress or the sack

Women are suffering escalating levels of illegal discrimination at work when they get pregnant, and are often made redundant while they are on maternity leave, according to a new poll.

The figures show one in seven of the women surveyed had lost their job while on maternity leave; 40% said their jobs had changed by the time they returned, with half reporting a cut in hours or demotion. More than a tenth had been replaced in their jobs by the person who had covered their maternity leave.

Samantha Mangwana, an employment lawyer at Slater & Gordon, the law firm which commissioned the research, said the results were “sad and shocking”.

“Women are suffering in silence,” she said. “A common case is that a woman goes back to her role and all her clients have been given to other people. And they are not returned. So everything she has built up over the years is gone. Or they are simply being made redundant ahead of worse-performing men. The big issue is that women are somehow seen as being less committed to their employers because they are now mothers. Many companies are settling out of court because they don’t want to be seen to be treating pregnant women or new mothers like this. But the awful thing is that I see the same major companies again and again and again, writing out these cheques – accompanied, of course, with a confidentiality clause.”

Research company OnePoll questioned 1,000 women last month. On returning to their jobs, almost a third of the new mothers (30%) felt they didn’t fit in any more and two in five felt they lacked support, with almost 20% feeling that no one understood what it was like juggling work with new motherhood. Nearly one in 10 said the stress affected their relationship with their partner. Only 3% had sought legal advice over maternity discrimination; 10% had sought help from their HR department.

It is unlawful to dismiss or otherwise disadvantage an employee for a reason related to her pregnancy or maternity leave. Campaign group Maternity Action provides advice to women and is trying to get the government to monitor unlawful discrimination. Before the recession, the Equal Opportunities Commission estimated that 30,000 women lost their jobs each year as a result of being pregnant, and campaigners believe that figure has risen dramatically.

“Those walking into Slater & Gordon are the tip of the iceberg,” said Rosalind Bragg, director of Maternity Action. “We know there’s a huge amount of pregnancy discrimination among low earners, who would not be able to go into a legal office for help. Demand for our helpline has doubled year on year for the past three years and our information sheets were downloaded 397,000 times.

Few cases go all the way to tribunal and when they do they attract a lot of publicity, like the case last month of Katie Tantum, 33, a trainee solicitor who accused a City law firm of sex discrimination, saying they “just stopped bothering” with her when they discovered she was pregnant. A judgment has yet to be reached with the firm claiming it was her “intellectual vigour” at fault.

Bragg said: “We believe only a very small percentage of women take any action against an employer who has broken the law. They may simply not know their rights, but often there will have been a period of bullying and harassment before the woman is finally sacked or leaves, so she’s in no position to invest energy and emotion, let alone money, in pursuing an action that may well not produce results.”

She pointed to comments made in 2011 by Downing Street’s then director of strategy, Steve Hilton, who suggested that scrapping all maternity allowances at work would help the economy. “People might have backed away from his comments afterwards, but that message was already out there loud and clear.” She added: “This year employment tribunal fees are to be introduced: an upfront fee of £1,200 before you even start, which is just increasing barriers. We expect the situation to get a lot worse.”

One woman who contacted Maternity Action was Sarah, from the south-east. She wrote: “I was both anxious and excited about going back to work … I’d agonised over childcare and paid a large deposit at our local nursery. I’d left my son there for two weeks to get him used to it gradually. I had to buy new clothes as none of my old ones fitted any more … Like many women, I felt unconfident about going back – but also exhilarated. The day came, I dropped my baby off, and arrived at work early and raring to go. The head of personnel invited me for a coffee to explain that, with regret, I was being made redundant.” © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Dear Jeremy – your work issues solved

Problems at work? Need advice? Our agony uncle – and readers – have the answer

How can I manage the people who used to be my co-workers?

I recently started a temp job at a college. I like the people and have been getting on well – so well, one of the senior managers has offered me a role managing the people I was working with.

Most of the team have been fine about my new position but a couple are resentful that this role was created for me – and to a certain extent I understand. Also, I have worked in the same office as them and observed quite a lot of unprofessional behaviour, and this may also worry them.

I really want to make a success of this role, but how do I get people on side and build a supportive team? Should I be softly softly, or no-nonsense? I’ve had a negative experience in the past with difficult employees that has left me nervous of conflict. I fear being in that position again.

Jeremy says

The first time you’re asked to manage other people is one of the scariest moments in your working life. And if those other people are your mates – the ones you shared an office with, and went down the pub with, and practised imitations of your manager with – it’s 10 times tougher. In an ideal world, no one should be asked to do it. If your first managerial job is with a new company, they may suspect you’re a beginner but you can probably get away with it. In your own company, they know you too well. It’s very difficult indeed.

Don’t become obsessed by your own popularity. You may be tempted to say you’re not going to change, that you’ll still be one of the gang. Don’t, because they won’t believe you and they’ll be right – either your relationship changes, or you’ll be a bad manager.

You can’t have a known influence on another person’s workload, promotion or salary and still pretend to be on equal terms. You’re not and you’re not paid to be.

Beware of the softly softly approach. You’re just postponing the moment when you have to look them in the eye and establish your authority. The sooner you can do that the better.

Don’t get flustered by the jokes, particularly to start with, they’re just testing you out.

Make no exceptions. Treat your best friend in exactly the same way as you treat the one you never got along with very well. They’ll be on the watch for any signs of favouritism on your part. The sooner you can establish a reputation for fairness the better. There’ll always be times when they think you’ve got things wrong; but if, however grudgingly, they think you set out to be fair, you’ll survive.

Never curry favour, but when you see an opportunity to take the initiative and improve their conditions, make the most of it – even if it means incurring the temporary displeasure of senior management. You must be seen to be your own person.

Be consistent. And be patient.

Readers say

• Keep a professional distance. You need to be seen as impartial so you can be clear in any discussions you may need to have over work standards, timekeeping, time off. Someone may well push your boundaries – be firm, be clear about your expectations, try not to get emotional during conflict. Always focus on performance issues, to depersonalise conflicts. Set relevant goals and praise good performance. riverman21

• Be firm and fair without being vindictive or petty. Picking on people for “minor infringements” is counter-productive.

Allow people a little wiggle room. Keep the tough stuff reserved for anyone who constantly shows disrespect – you will have the moral high ground and, as a result, more support from the other staff. healey

I got a salary freeze – and extra work – while colleagues got a raise

I have worked in my current position for almost two and a half years. During that time, my department’s manager left and was replaced by another person who performs the same role (ie, non-managerial) as me. Since his departure, I have taken on most of what his former role entailed, and received an increased workload with no offer of salary improvement.

At Christmas, about half of the office was told there would be no salary increases in 2013. I have just learned that many people did, in fact, receive a raise. I dislike intensely being lied to – what can I do (apart from find a better job!)?

Jeremy says

Do everything you can to keep these two issues separate in your mind. I can quite understand how the second piece of knowledge exacerbates the injustice you feel about the first – but it won’t help your cause to confuse them.

Let me turn first to the across-the-board salary freeze that apparently applied only to half the staff. You don’t say the source of this information but, unless you’ve actually seen the figures, you’d be wise to treat it with extreme caution. Nothing gets tongues wagging quite as excitedly as stories about salaries. Unless you are absolutely certain that half the office was lied to, you’d be sensible not even to hint to management that that’s what you believe they did. If the story’s denied, you’re immediately on the defensive and clearly guilty of rumour-mongering yourself.

More importantly, your case for a salary rise to reflect your greatly-increased workload and burden of responsibility, is in no way dependent on the fact that you believe others got a rise while you did not. Tempting though it is to make comparisons with others, there will always be inconsistencies and anomalies in salary lists – and many can be rationalised quite legitimately. You should base your claim entirely on your belief in your own worth – and do it with fact and conviction but without resentment.

From the fact that you say that “no offer of salary improvement” was made to you suggests you’re reluctant to raise the subject yourself. You shouldn’t be. Use an appraisal or book a time with your manager. Present your case verbally, but have a written submission to leave behind. Contrast your previous workload with your current workload as factually as possible. Don’t expect any instant response and don’t ask for one; just say that you’d be grateful if your case could be considered at the next appropriate time.

Readers say

• After 25yrs in HR, I’d say that it is not always the hard-working, highly-performing staff that get pay rises. Often it is the mouthy, good-at-managing-their-bosses folk that get them. Do look elsewhere if you don’t like your current job/company (pay rise issues aside) but don’t give not getting a pay rise as your reason for moving on, as people like me will immediately think your current company doesn’t rate you that highly. ExBrightonBelle

• Your only leverage is to get another job and hand in your notice with the expectation that it will be accepted. SpursSupporter

For Jeremy’s and readers’ advice on a work issue, send a brief email to Please note that he is unable to answer questions of a legal nature or reply personally. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

‘Autism doesn’t hold me back. I’m moving up the career ladder’

Driven new generation of people with the condition are showing employers there is no limit to what they can do

Jonathan Young has big plans for his career. The business analyst at Goldman Sachs is on the autistic spectrum. But this, he says, is not something he allows to hold him back.

“I’m the company’s global go-to guy for all the information used in every single one of our internal and external presentations,” he says. “I’m moving up the ladder every year in terms of responsibility or promotion. My ambition is to maintain this momentum. In 10 years, I want to be someone fairly big.”

He is part of the most visible generation of young people with autism our society has ever known. Diagnosed early, this generation have been educated to expect not just a job when they leave school but a career on a par with their “neuro-typical” contemporaries.

The confidence and determination of these graduates – some of whom are educated to PhD level – are forcing the pace of change in organisations previously inaccessible to those with autism. Businesses, from City law firms and banks to global healthcare companies, have begun to open their doors to young people once thought able only to do lowly jobs.

Young first went to Goldman Sachs as an intern in the National Autistic Society’s specialist employment programme, Prospects. His time at the investment bank was such a success that the two-month internship swiftly became a full-time, permanent post.

“When I arrived, this role was a part-time job but I built it up into a key, full-time post and made it my own,” he said. “Autism doesn’t hold me back because I have had the correct support from a young age. It’s key to have that support, both in education and in the workplace, but I don’t require anything complicated: people just have to understand that I’m different.”

For all his confidence, Young admits that he considers himself fortunate. “I never lose sight of the fact that I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to use all my intelligence and stretch my potential,” he said.

Prospects has placed young people with autism in companies including Thomson Reuters, the law firms Clifford Chance and Ashurst, the technology and business consultant Cartesian, and John Lewis.

Penny Andrews got her job as a library graduate trainee at Leeds Metropolitan University in August without any help from a charity or specialist employment agency.

Having beaten 200 applicants to the job, she believes she has proved herself to be the best candidate. “Sometimes I feel people think I should be grateful that I have a job but I’m performing a useful task and doing it well, so they should be grateful to me,” she said. “After all, they wanted me badly enough to employ me a month before I had finished my degree in IT and communications with the Open University.”

Far from feeling that her diagnosis of Asperger’s is something to be “got over”, Andrews maintains it gave her a lead over the other candidates. “I was completely open about my autism throughout the interview process and even asked for a few special conditions to take account of my Asperger’s, such as working from 8.30am to 4.30pm,for example, so I don’t have to take the rush-hour bus home, taking extra breaks in a special quiet area if I need quiet, and not having to answer telephones.”

They are small adjustments for her employers to make, she said, compared with the advantages her Asperger’s gives them. “I’m more focused, intense and honest than a neuro-typical person,” she said. “I do things thoroughly and pay proper attention to detail. I’m always switched on: even when I’m not at work, I’ll go to events that are relevant. Libraries are one of my autistic specialities and I harness that at work.”

Employers’ attitudes might be changing but there is a lot of ground to make up. Just 15% of those with autism have full-time jobs, according to research by the National Autistic Society (Nas), while 9% work part-time. These figures compare unfavourably with the 31% of disabled people in full-time work in the UK. More than a quarter of graduates with autism are unemployed, the highest rate of any disability group. Nevertheless, employers are increasingly coming round to the arguments from disability advocates that employing those on the spectrum is not about charity or social responsibility – but the empirical benefit of taking on people with unique skills.

Tom Madders is head of campaigns at the society and responsible for its Undiscovered Workforce campaign to get young people with autism into employment. He talks of a “vast pool of untapped talent” among those with autism.

“When someone has the intellectual ability and ends up doing a job like working in a supermarket, it’s heartbreaking. It’s such a waste because although everyone with autism is different, the things they bring that are additional to the rest of us include a very high concentration level, very good attention to detail and analytical skills that are key in data analysis and when looking for anomalies in complex spreadsheets,” he said. “Why would employers want to miss out on those skills? In addition, those with autism have very specialist areas of exhaustive interest which, if these can coincide with the job in hand, can be extremely useful. They’re much more reliable in terms of timeliness and absenteeism and very loyal. Often, they’re very happy in jobs other people find boring.”

William Thanh has such severe autism that he can only communicate through his iPad. But his work at the Paul bakery in London is of such high quality that the manager, Salina Gani, is keen to increase his hours.

“When we decided to take on three young people with autism last year, we thought there would be limits to what they could achieve,” said Gani. “But these young men have shown us that we shouldn’t assume anything on the basis of their autism alone. Yes, they need work that’s repetitive and structured, but much of the service industry is like that anyway. We would gladly take them on full-time and increase the numbers of people with autism working for us across all our outlets.”

At Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals in London, an initiative was set up two years ago to help people aged 18 to 30 with autism gain work experience. Of the 20 or so interns who completed the scheme, four have jobs at the hospital. The third cohort of about 16 young people to begin this year will be twice as large as that in the first year.

Staynton Brown, associate director of equality and diversity at the hospital, dismisses any suggestion of the initiative being a philanthropic one. “This is not a charitable gesture,” he said. “We want to make sure we have the most talented workforce possible. It’s in our interests in multiple ways. For a start, this hospital serves a very diverse population and we want to do that to the best of our ability, which is more likely to happen if our workforce is used to working alongside a diverse group of colleagues.

“We’ve all benefited from the changes we’ve incorporated to accommodate those with autism. By clarifying the way we give information to and help introduce the interns into the hospital, we’ve made communication clearer for everyone, which leads to better patient care.”

William Elliott, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, agreed. “Employers are thinking more diversely about their workforce because they want to get the best talent through the door. We’re increasingly recognising those talents can be found within this historically underrepresented group.

It’s a lot easier than most people think to integrate someone with autism into the workplace. It just takes a good manager who is prepared to give some time to bring that person on, an approach which will be of benefit to every new employee.”

Project Search, a programme supported by the Office for Disability Issues, helps those with autism find – and keep – permanent employment in companies including GlaxoSmithKline and the security firm G4S. About 30% of Project Search graduates have been taken on by their host employers. An additional 30% are signed up by other employers.

“People are being recruited on Project Search before they have even finished the programme because, far from being seen as a charity scheme, these young people are rightly regarded as a talent pool, like student nurses,” said Anne O’Bryan, who runs the European arm of the programme.

Some of the improvements can be traced to government policies. The Autism Act 2009 – a response to poor employment rates for people with autism – was the first disability-specific legislation to be passed by the government.

In 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions and Nas published a guide for employers, Untapped Talent. But David Perkins, manager of Prospects at Nas, said the government had done as much harm as it had good. “Unfortunately, things really haven’t improved in terms of employing people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome over the last few years,” he said.

Prospects has helped place 30% of its clients in work – 18 people in 2012 and 15 in 2011. But these figures, said Perkins, are down on the three years before. He blames the government’s Work Programme.

“It has been detrimental in helping people with autism to find employment because it really doesn’t reflect the specific needs and difficulties people with the condition might have in terms of employment,” he said, pointing out that some Work Programme providers were getting just 3.5% of clients into jobs.

“Funding for courses such as our own – which is 10 times more successful – is extremely limited, and those with autism who want to work continue to struggle to get adequate support to allow them to do so,” he said. “As things stand, there is so little help out there for the around one in 100 adults with the condition, that finding sustainable employment for people with autism is an uphill battle.”

But Peta Troke of Autism Plus is more optimistic. “The job market is opening up to people with autism in a way it never has before,” she said. “There’s a ‘can-do’ attitude around people with autism now. There’s a spark.”

Unrealised potential

• Only 15% of adults with autism in the UK are in full-time paid employment and only 9% are in part-time employment.

• 26% of graduates with autism are unemployed, by far the highest rate of any disability group.

• Of those who do not currently have a job, 59% do not believe or think they will ever be able to get one.

• According to the National Autistic Society, most of the 300,000-plus working-age adults with autism want to work but are held back by a lack of understanding of autism and a dearth of specialist employment services.

• With help from the National Autistic Society’s employment support service Prospects, 70% of adults with autism were able to find a job.

• Only 10% of adults with autism receive support in finding work but 53% would like it.

• 79% of adults with autism who receive out of work benefits say they would rather work.

• 37% of adults with autism have never had a paid job after the age of 16 and 41% of people over the age of 55 have spent a period of more than 10 years without a paid job.

• 51% of adults with autism in the UK have lived through a period in which they have had neither a job nor access to benefits. Of those, 10% have been in this position for a decade or more.

• Of those who have worked, about a third said that they had experienced bullying and felt that they had received unfair treatment or discrimination as a result of their disability.

• Job applications and interview processes can be particularly challenging for people with autism, as the condition can affect the ability to communicate. Often “good communication skills” are described as a prerequisite in a job specification, even when the role does not directly require them – which can discourage people with autism from applying. Research by Jemma Buckley © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

British women slip down scale on job security and equal pay

Survey of women in work, published on International Women’s Day, ranks UK 18th of 27 countries on job security and pay

Women in the UK have lower job security and greater pay inequality than those in other developed countries, research shows. They are also less likely to be in work than their counterparts in other OECD countries, according to the report by PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC).

The Women in Work Index ranked the UK 18th of 27 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries in five areas of “female economic empowerment” such as pay equality, the female unemployment rate, and the proportion of women working full-time. The figures were from 2011, the latest year for which comparable data was available.

PwC compared the figures for 2011 with the same data for 2007 and 2000 and found UK women had slipped down the table – a result of rising female unemployment, above-average pay inequality, and fewer full-time employment opportunities.

The report’s author, Yong Jing Teow, said: “It is worrying that the UK’s progress in encouraging more women into work and closing the gender pay gap has all but ground to a halt since the recession hit. While most other OECD countries have continued to move ahead, our progress appears to have stalled.”

The gender wage gap has narrowed in almost all countries since 2000, except for Italy, Portugal and France, with the Nordic countries leading PwC’s latest index. Norway is in top position because of its high rate of female participation in the labour force and a low gender pay gap, followed by Sweden and Denmark. The three countries also occupied the top three positions in 2000, 2007 and 2011.

The research was published on International Women’s Day and coincides with a separate report, by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, showing that more women – and men – are working beyond the traditional retirement age in the UK, swelling the UK’s public finances by around £2.1bn.

Since April 2010 the age at which women can first receive a state pension has been rising from 60. It is currently 61 years and five months and is due to rise to 66 by 2020.

The IFS says this is having a strong effect in increasing employment among those women directly affected. It has also changed the behaviour of some of the husbands of the affected women – who are delaying their own retirement, possibly to retire together or perhaps to cover their wives’ lost pension income.

In April 2012, there were 27,000 more women in work than there would otherwise have been as a result of the increase in the female state pension age – from age 60 to 61 – between April 2010 and April 2012.

Employment rates among their husbands increased by 4.2 percentage points, meaning 8,300 more men were in work than would otherwise have been.

Jonathan Cribb, a research economist at the IFS and co-author of the report, said: “Increasing the age at which women can first receive their state pension has led to significant numbers of women deferring their retirement, with over half aged 60 now in paid work for the first time ever. So, despite the weak performance of the UK economy over these two years, many have been able to limit the loss of state pension income through increased earnings.”

Pensions minister Steve Webb welcomed the IFS’s findings, stating: “It is good news. An extra year or two of paid work can bring a big boost to someone’s state and private pension entitlement, and they will still go on to enjoy an average of more than two decades of retirement.” © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

I’m still waiting to start living my life after university

Do you have any advice for a reader who is feeling hopeless about the future after recently graduating and starting a new job?

I am in my early 20s and currently live with my parents. I feel increasingly hopeless about my future. I was unemployed for five months after university, during which I felt useless and rejected while waiting for a graduate job opportunity to appear. I have one now, but feel like a donkey chasing after a carrot that I’m not even sure I need. The problem is that I don’t know how to break past my own limitations, stop waiting, and start living. What can I do to change my outlook and live a more fulfilling life?

When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments which appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed.

If you would like fellow readers to respond to a dilemma of yours, send us an outline of the situation of around 150 words. For advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns.

• All correspondence should reach us by Wednesday morning. Email: (please don’t send attachments). © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Should I take a new job or stay in a safe role?

I have the chance of a new role at a larger firm, perhaps with better prospects, but my current job is fun, flexible and secure

Each Friday and Monday we publish the problems that will feature in a forthcoming Dear Jeremy advice column in the Guardian Money supplement so that readers can offer their own advice and suggestions. We then print the best of your comments alongside Jeremy’s own insights. Here is the latest dilemma – what are your thoughts?

I work in a senior position for a long-established law firm, where I’ve been for a decade. It is flexible, enjoyable and pays well. However, there have recently been financial issues which I’m reassured are a blip, and while work is harder to come by, it will pick up. We made redundancies last year but I was never considered.

I was contacted by a recruiter for a role in a larger, more corporate firm that I went for and got. I’ve taken it, but I am now having second thoughts – my boss is ace and I feel that it may just be that I’ve had my head turned. No job is without risk these days, regardless of firm or industry.

So should I stay for the security of length of service and flexibility, or go to the new role with potentially better career prospects and challenges but with the fear of moving after so long? Friends and family argue for and against – and my firm categorically doesn’t want me to go.

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