Out of work men are choosing unemployment over ‘women’s work’

A nurse chats to a resident at a nursing home. (BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)

Even as the number of blue collar jobs in certain sectors of the U.S. economy decline sharply and jobs in the new service-sector increase dramatically, out of work men have been disinclined to pursue these new opportunities. These new service-sector jobs require different skills and pay less than the work many of these men are used to — but the biggest obstacle, some experts suggest, remains men’s distaste for performing what they consider to be “women’s work.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the fastest-declining jobs tend to be mostly occupied by males — the fastest-growing jobs, on the other hand, are mostly occupied by females. Between 2014 and 2024, for instance, the number of locomotive firer jobs is projected to shrink 70 percent — 96 percent of those jobs are performed by men. One of the fastest-growing job sectors includes various kinds of health aides — and health aides trend 90 percent female.

Men, experts say, are capable of training to perform jobs in the growing “pink-collar” sector — but, for whatever reason, they appear unwilling to do so. “It’s not a skill mismatch, but an identity mismatch,” explained Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist. “It’s not that they couldn’t become a health worker, it’s that people have backward views of what their identity is.” In short, Katz added, people are trapped in “retrospective wait unemployment” — also known as “looking for the job you used to have.”

Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist and public policy professor at Johns Hopkins, was more blunt about what he perceived to be the real issue. “Traditional masculinity is standing in the way of working-class men’s employment, and I think it’s a problem,” said Cherlin. “We have a cultural lag where our views of masculinity have not caught up to the change in the job market.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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