Gender job splitting
Some familiar-but-important and some new material from a discussion on a new report today from the TUC/Work Foundation, on the Gender Jobs Split.
The familiar was about the dismal and depressing overall levels of youth unemployment, and their probable long-term impact on the futures of this generation. Familiar too, but in a different sense, is the way young women and men go into their separate groups of occupations – the difference being that many of the commentators expressed surprise (as well as dismay) at how little things have changed on this over the decades. Ian Brinkley described progress on gender desegregation as ‘glacial’; others went further and suggested that the glacier was not even moving in a forward direction, but just melting down. I’m not quite sure whether that metaphor twist works literally , but it was a sobering result, with material consequences: the occupational routes young women choose pay less, and this will show up continuously and cumulatively in their lifetime earnings.
I was made to think again about the polarisation of women’s chances by a powerful commentary from Becky Gill of the Young Women’s Trust. She argued that whilst women in general might be outperforming men educationally, those young women who do badly at school are right at the bottom of the pile, with fewer prospects than anyone. Even young men with no qualifications stand a better chance of making some progress later on. Once in the rut of no qualifications and no experience, it’s really hard to escape, especially if they have children young.
A decade ago this would not have been the case, or at least less so. Well-established Access courses ran in many colleges, helping those without qualifications – the classic Educating Rita pathway. There was a broad sweep of opportunities for those who wanted to get back into education. But the system has changed, with the incentives all pushing colleges and universities in a different direction. In HE the numbers of mature and part-time students has dropped dramatically since 2010, as a HEPI report shows very clearly. Adult learners are left increasingly to their own devices.
Piling on the gloom – this really isn’t the way to start a weekend – is the evidence from another good Resolution Foundation report, that women are overrepresented amongst National Minimum Wage earners. Nothing new in that – but the report shows how women are more likely to stay at that level than move on:
“Women make up 51 per cent of employees but 62 per cent of NMW earners are female. In this paper, we find that this disparity worsens among those who are trapped in NMW work. Three-quarters (73 per cent) of all those who have only held NMW jobs in the past five years are women.”
This confirms findings from earlier longitudinal research that men are more likely to use low-pay jobs as stepping-stones to something better.
A positive idea to finish with, from today’s meeting: could we make progress towards part-time apprenticeships, which might fit better with some young people’s outlook and capabilities?