The number of bankrupt women aged between 35 and 54 jumped to 15,659 in 2009, up from 11,418 in 2008, according to research by accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy. Women aged between 45 and 54 saw the fastest increase in bankruptcies with the number soaring 40 per cent to 6,338 in 2009], up from 4,522 in 2008.
In comparison, the number of middle-aged (aged 35-54) bankrupt men rose by just 22% from 20,834 in 2008 to 25,501 in 2009.
Keith Stevens, insolvency partner at Wilkins Kennedy said: “These figures show that it is actually middle-aged women who suffered the most from the economic crisis. Although fewer women were made redundant in the recession, those from this age group found it much harder to get new work to pay off mounting bills.”
Wilkins Kennedy says that both men and women are most likely to be plunged into bankruptcy when a loss of income is combined with another external shock such as divorce.
Women in the 35-54 year group can be particularly vulnerable to financial stress as a significant proportion are left as lone parents who bear the responsibility of bringing up their children on their own.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the average age of divorce for women in England and Wales is 41 years old.
Wilkins Kennedy says that it has also seen an increasing number of middle-aged women launching their own business ventures, thereby putting themselves at greater financial risk.
Keith Stevens explains: “Lone parents are more likely to need flexible or part-time hours due to childcare commitments or other family responsibilities. This limits the number of roles they can apply for and can make it difficult to get back into the workforce.”
“Despite all the changes in family make-up that have taken place over the last couple of decades, a sole parent is inevitably a woman.”
“Women with children may be less attractive than other candidates, especially with smaller employers who might not have the resources to juggle part-time and flexi-time arrangements. Many women are therefore forced to take lower-skilled and lower-paid jobs.”
“We have seen a significant increase in the number of women launching their own businesses during the recession. However, this also comes with greater financial risk. For every business that succeeds, there are many that never get off the ground.”
A study from the Institute for Social and Economic Research found that 5 years after divorce, separating husbands have an income that is 25 per cent higher on average than their income prior to the marital split, whereas the income of separating wives is on average 9 per cent lower.
Separate figures from the Office of National Statistics show that nine out of ten lone parents are women.
Comments Keith Stevens: “Raising children as a lone parent is financially challenging and statistics show that it’s normally women who end up with this responsibility. It’s not a problem when you’re Madonna but for most women, it requires a significant change in lifestyle.”
“After a divorce women often feel under pressure to carry on with the same lifestyle as when they were married so their children aren’t affected any more than necessary. However, this may not always be financially realistic.”
The overall number of personal bankruptcies in the UK was up 11% to 74,605 in 2009, up from 67,465 in 2008.