Women, men and the jobs recovery

In previous posts we’ve looked at the Western Region’s Labour Market and its Sectoral Profile, but how do these patterns differ by gender? Is the current jobs recovery impacting on men and women differently?

While jobs growth is underway in the country as a whole, as well as in the Western Region (though at a lower level), this has mainly been driven by growth in male jobs. Between 2012 and 2014 male employment in the rest of the state (all counties other than the seven counties of the Western Region) increased by 5.9% compared with 1.6% growth in female employment. In the Western Region over the same period, 2.9% growth in male jobs was in contrast to a -0.4% decline in the number of women at work. Women in general do not appear to be benefiting as much as men from the upturn in the labour market, and even more so in the Western Region. Why is this?

Jobs growth in sectors important for male employment, but decline in many female dominated sectors

Much of it stems from the sectoral jobs pattern and the relative performance of male and female dominated sectors. Fig. 1 shows the percentage of male and female jobs in each sector in the Western Region. Public and local services are the main areas of employment for women. The biggest gender difference is in Health and Social Work which accounts for 22% of women’s jobs compared with 4.3% of men’s. A total of 41.1% of working women in the region work in the predominantly public sectors (Health, Education & Public Administration). For men the figure is just 12.9%. Any reduction or lack of growth in public sector jobs has a far greater impact on women’s employment.

Accommodation and Food Service, ‘Other NACE Activities’, Financial, Insurance and Real Estate, and Administrative and Support Services also account for a greater share of women’s than men’s jobs. These are all predominantly local services which have been impacted by limited domestic demand.

Industry, Agriculture, Construction, and Transport and Storage are the most male dominated sectors. Industry accounts for twice as large a share of all male jobs as female. For the others, their share of all female jobs is very low. It is notable that the knowledge services sector of Information and Communication, often seen as a key future growth area, accounts for a far higher share of male than female jobs.

Fig. 1: Percentage of employment by sector and gender in the Western Region, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Fig. 1: Percentage of employment by sector and gender in the Western Region, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Between 2012 and 2014 half of sectors (7 of 14) experienced an increase in employment in the Western Region (Fig. 2). Industry, Agriculture, Wholesale and Retail, and Accommodation and Food Service, the four largest male employment sectors, all experienced jobs growth. This contributed to the overall 2.9% growth in male jobs between 2012 and 2014.

However jobs in Health and Education declined in the region, while they rose in the rest of the state. Combined with declines in Finance, Other Services and Public Administration (all of which are more important female employers) these sectoral declines contributed to the -0.4% decline in women’s jobs in the region. The contraction of employment in Health and Education in particular has significant implications for women’s jobs, particularly in more rural areas of the region which have higher dependence on these sectors, partly due to limited alternative professional or clerical career opportunities.

Fig. 2: Percentage change in employment by sector in the Western Region and rest of the state, Q1 2012 to Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Fig. 2: Percentage change in employment by sector in the Western Region and rest of the state, Q1 2012 to Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 2. Special run)

Lower female participation

A distinct gender pattern obvious from Fig. 3  and Fig. 4 is the higher proportion of men who are active in the labour force. The region’s male labour force participation rate is 65.2% compared with a female rate of 50.4%. The gender gap in participation rates narrowed during the recession as participation among men, particularly young men, fell very dramatically while female rates remained steady. However 2014 saw some widening of the gender gap again as the female rate declined and the male rate rose. The weaker recent female jobs performance may be contributing to declining female participation in the labour market.

Fig. 3: Economic status of Western Region’s male population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Fig. 3: Economic status of Western Region’s male population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Higher male unemployment but gap narrowing

Despite the stronger recent growth in male jobs, there is still a far greater number of unemployed men in the region than women – 26,200 compared with 14,400 (Fig. 3 and Fig. 4). The massive increase in unemployment from 2008 was initially concentrated among men, given the job losses in building and related sectors, before spreading more widely across the domestic economy leading to rising female job losses (though at a lower level).

The fall in unemployment since 2012 has been stronger among men than women; meaning that while the unemployment rates for both sexes have declined, the rate of decline has been stronger among men, narrowing the gender gap. In 2012 there was a 5.5 percentage point gap, which narrowed to 4.0 percentage points by 2014 when the region’s male unemployment rate was 13.3% and the female 9.3%. Unemployment continues to be higher among men but the difference is declining.

Fig. 4: Economic status of Western Region’s female population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Fig. 4: Economic status of Western Region’s female population aged 15 years and over, Q1 2014 (Source: CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2014, Table 1. Special run)

Note: The percentages refer to the share of the adult population in each category. Therefore the percentage unemployed is not the same as the unemployment rate which refers to the number unemployed as a percentage of those in the labour force and not of the entire adult population.

Greater part-time working among women

The other key feature of Fig. 3  and Fig. 4 is the far greater share and level of part-time working among women. In 2014 almost twice as many women (52,600) as men (27,500) in the region were working part-time. As a proportion of total employment this was 37.4% of all working women compared with 16.1% of working men. A key aspect is the extent to which part-time working is by choice or involuntary. If a person would prefer to be working full-time (if a full-time job were available) they are considered to be part-time underemployment. For men who are working part-time, 40% are underemployed but for women it is 27%. The extent to which women choose part-time work is very often related to greater caring responsibilities and the availability (or lack) of appropriate and affordable care provision.

For both men and women the share working part-time is higher in the Western Region than the rest of the state. In the case of women, part-time working in the region has increased since 2012 (rising from 35.3% to 37.4%) while it has remained unchanged for women in the rest of the state and declined slightly among men in the region. Not only has total female employment in the region declined since 2012, but a greater proportion of those who are working are working part-time.

This analysis raises serious questions in relation to not only the spatial pattern of the current jobs recovery but also the gender pattern. Women in the Western Region appear to be experiencing the poorest jobs recovery; compared with men and also with women living elsewhere. The concentration of female jobs in public services and the recent employment declines in these sectors in the region seems to be one of the main reasons, a trend that requires further investigation.

Pauline White

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About WDC Insights

WDC Insights is the blog of the Western Development Commission Policy Analysis Team. The WDC Policy Analysis team analyses regional and rural issues, suggests solutions to regional difficulties and provides a regional perspective on national policy objectives. Policy Analysis Team Members are: Deirdre Frost, Helen McHenry and Pauline White. We will all be posting here. You can contact us here, or use our firstnamelastname at wdc.ie Follow us on Twitter @WDCInsights
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