Ever since the recession, more women participate in the workforce than ever before. In fact, women now make up almost half of American workers (49.9%), and earn more than half (60%) of all university degrees. Thanks, feminism!
Some people praise this as evidence that women have bounced back from the recession stronger than ever—and, to some extent, that’s true. 6.8% of women are unemployed, compared to 7.7% of men. But, in truth, many women work jobs that may not even pay them enough to keep them out of poverty.
As the National Women’s Law Center reports, 60% of the increase in employment for women between 2009 and 2012 occurred in occupations that pay less than $10.10 per hour. Those occupations include: childcare workers, housekeepers, home health and personal-care aids, cashiers, wait staff, and food preparation workers. Women make up the majority of workers in these fields and, unfortunately, these fields have seen the most recent job growth nationally.
This holds true for North Carolina as well. The NC Budget and Tax Center explains in its State of Working North Carolina 2013 report that “[manufacturing jobs] have been replaced largely by jobs in service-providing industries – food preparation, home health providers, and retail services – that often pay significantly lower wagers than the state average.”
While more women than men may hold jobs, more women than men live in poverty in North Carolina. In 2012, 19.5% of North Carolina women lived in poverty compared to 16.5% of North Carolina men. It seems that those university degrees don’t get us as far as we thought!
More women have been forced into low-wage jobs because of cuts in public-sector employment. Women are more likely to have government jobs, like teachers and teacher assistants, social workers, and public health officials. Women aren’t “winning” at the recovery. Budget cuts at the federal and state levels have disproportionately hurt women, who have turned to low-wage work in order to continue to support their families as best they can.
Meanwhile, North Carolina’s economy has been transitioning away from high-wage jobs that can provide a path to middle class prosperity and more towards low-wage jobs that keep families at or below the poverty line. I assure you that no one wins.