On 14th July 2016, the government’s Insolvency Service gave us the latest set of figures for insolvencies, and there were some surprising results.

Figures Show That Women Are Now Topping the Insolvency Lists

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The good news is that in every region the number of insolvencies has continues to go down, a trend begun in 2009. For only the second time, however, women had a higher insolvency rate than men, although like men, they were most likely to become insolvent between the ages of 35 and 44.

Men and Women in Debt: Similarities and Differences

The rate for women making insolvency arrangements was 18.2 in every 10,000, while the male rate was 16.9 in 10,000. However, within these figures there are some similarities between men and women and some further gender differences.

In 2015, men and women had equal rates of Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA), but men continue to have a higher rate for bankruptcies while women have a higher rate of Debt Relief Orders (DROs) approved. Within the general trend of insolvencies since 2009, men’s rates of insolvency have been going down more steeply than women’s.

A Decade of Boom and Bust

The figures tell the story of what has gone wrong since 2000 or so. In 2001, 3.8 women in every 10,000 were insolvent but by 2006 this had jumped to 19, presumably as a result of easy money, low interest rates and plentiful credit. We all know how that ended – the financial crisis and credit crunch of 2008. In 2008, the women’s insolvency rate jumped, ending up at its peak of 26.8 in 2010.

That’s an increase from 3.8 insolvent women per 10,000 in 2001, to 26.8 in 2010, an increase of over 700% and a sad reflection of the way so many people were caught up in the boom and bust of the mid noughties.

Women are often painfully ashamed about debt, and reluctant to talk to friends or family. Thankfully, more women are now seeking help with IVAs from professional IVA advisers, rather than struggling to cope with it all on their own.

Behind the figures may lie an upsurge in women starting businesses or becoming self-employed. Hopefully, some of those who have suffered are now on the path to solvency, and perhaps to running successful businesses in the future.