Why won’t out-of-work men do ‘women’s work’?
Because society — including women — tells them they shouldn’t
Susan Chira reports on another example of the difficulties of getting workers displaced by the economic turmoil of an automated world into jobs that machines can’t do (yet). Men displaced from manufacturing and other traditionally male jobs won’t move into heath care, teaching, or administration, traditionally female jobs:
The jobs report for May contained discouraging news: continuing low labor-force participation, now below 63 percent overall. About 20 million men between the prime working ages of 20 and 65 had no paid work in 2015, and seven million men have stopped looking altogether.
The rage and despair of some of them helped propel Donald Trump to the White House. They may be waiting for him to deliver on his promise to bring back well-paid manufacturing jobs. Economists fear a long, fruitless wait.
In the meantime, the jobs most in demand — like nursing and nurse assistants, home health care aides, occupational therapists or physical therapists — sit open. The health care sector had the largest gap between vacancies and hires of any sector in April, for example.
And it is not only blue-collar men who recoil at taking traditionally female jobs.
Ofer Sharone, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has studied middle-aged white-collar professionals who have lost their jobs. He found that some men who might have been willing to consider lower-paid jobs in typically feminine fields encountered resistance from their wives, who urged them to keep looking.
Men can also face resistance from their female peers. Jason Mott, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, said some of his male students were teased by their female classmates. “They feel they need to really express their manhood, stressing the athletics they take part in,” he said.
Nursing offers a perplexing case study. In theory, nursing should appeal to men because it pays fairly good wages and is seen as a profession with a defined skill set. Yet just 10 percent of nurses are men, despite “Are You Man Enough … to Be a Nurse?” posters and other efforts to enlist men.
The hope is to focus on millennials who may be less bound by notions of traditional masculinity, said Brent MacWilliams, president of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing and a former commercial fisherman who is now an associate professor of nursing at Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He has seen more men apply to nursing schools, but he acknowledges his group will fall short of its goal of 20 percent male nurses by 2020.
Nursing and teaching, another growing field dominated by women, may require levels of education or training that can be daunting for those men who were less successful in school but made a good living in manufacturing.
There is no ‘answer’ to this situation: it’s a dilemma.
The concept of a ‘masculine’ job is not just in the heads of the men: their wives and co-workers tease them if they take traditionally female work. Recruiters pass them over for administrative jobs because they are deemed likely to quit if they get something more traditionally male.
The entire system works against the best interests of everyone involved. Patients who might benefit from physically stronger home health care aides can’t get them. Men who would benefit from secure work can accept the shame associated with ‘women’s work’. And the female co-workers might benefit from higher pay is men joined their workforce, and demanded higher pay.
So, once again, when some blowhard at a conference or cocktail party starts to go on about how easy it will be to create new jobs in the coming AI-dominated economy, just point out to him the current 63% labor force participation, and the 27 million out of work men aged 20–65 that had zero hours of paid work in 2015. And that’s before widespread automation has spread out beyond manufacturing, mining, and a few other automation-intensive sectors. Wait till driverless cars and trucks hit the millions of cabbies and truck drivers, and robots and factory homes hit the construction industry.
Originally published at stoweboyd.com.