Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gender, Jobs, Recession... and bad math

Usually the Toronto Star has pretty decent writing, but this was one of the poorest pieces I've seen in a while. There are some good points made, but the headline ("In shrinking workforce, women may surpass men") is misleading, and the writing jumps around without leading to any reasonable conclusion.

Perhaps this is nitpicky, but there is some sloppy math here. The article claims "there's a possibility women will soon outnumber men in the job force." The numbers quoted in the same article don't really bear that out, unless you define "soon" as "probably never".
According to StatsCan, there were 7,295,900 men with full-time jobs in January 2005 and 6,297,400 women working full-time.

By January 2008, that number had dropped to 7,186,800 for men and to 5,339,200 for women. And as of last month, it fell further, to 7,095,000 full-time jobs for men and slightly for women, to 5,339,000 full-time positions.

So the trend shows in the longer term women losing significantly more full-time jobs than men (from 2005-2009, men lost 200,000 while women lost 958,400 jobs, or put another way men lost 2.7% of their full-time jobs while women lost 15.2%). From 2008-2009, men lost 91,800 jobs and women lost only 200. Now there are 1,756,000 more men than women employed full-time. If this trend were to continue, exactly as is, it would take over 19 years for the number of men and women employed full time to equalize. I don't know about you, but I don't consider 19 years as "soon". In addition, most stimulus money is targeted to male-dominated industries, so if the stimulus package has any effect, traditionally masculine industries will see a boost, slowing or reversing this trend.

If they had included part-time work as well, maybe the conclusion would be justified (women's part-time job participation is about three times that of men). Here's the most recent Statcan numbers.

If it were true that women were surpassing men in the full-time paid workforce, why is this a problem? Aren't we supposed to be living in the land of equality?

One reason this is indeed a problem is that women still make less money than men, partly because pink-collar jobs typically offer lower pay and fewer benefits. Women-headed households are on average much poorer, even when there are two parents.
Economists also point out that men have lost high-paying jobs with health care and pensions but women are supporting families with jobs that are not necessarily as good.

The article also points out:
This trend can also mean a shift in family dynamics. "If more men find themselves home, that has important implications for the way families operate," said Julie McCarthy, assistant professor at Rotman School of Management. "It's not a bad thing – most men are amazing parents but traditionally, it's not their primary role. Perhaps this trend will facilitate that."

Why shouldn't men stay home and watch the kids half the time? Many men I know would love to have more time with their kids. And most kids would love to have their fathers around more.

Wouldn't it be nice if mommy's salary was enough to support the family while daddy took care of the cooking, cleaning and kids. Or perhaps, his EI benefits could help the family pay the bills (except that like Diane Finley said, "We do not want to make it lucrative for them to stay home and get paid for it, not when we have significant skills shortages in many parts of the country." This government wanted to make it easier for women to stay at home, but I guess the same doesn't apply to men.) Or perhaps a decent subsidized daycare system could help out when both mommy and daddy need their crappy minimum wage jobs, or when mommy is single.

Then I don't think we would worry so much about equal job participation rate among men and women.

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