NWLC graphic on low-wage occupations and women

Infographic: 60 percent of women’s job gains in the recovery are in low-wage jobs

NWLC graphic on low-wage occupations and women

Today is the four-year anniversary of the last time the minimum wage was increased.

I’ve written before about why everyone but especially women–who make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers–need a raise. Today, the National Women’s Law Center is out with a new analysis showing that 60 percent of the jobs women have gained in the economic recovery have been concentrated in the 10 largest low-wage occupations–ones that typically pay  less than $10.10 per hour, which it should be noted is considerably higher than minimum wage and still totally insufficient. Just 20 percent of men’s job gains have been in these low-wage jobs.

As NWLC explains, women have always been overrepresented in these sectors: More than 75 percent of these workers are women and over one-third are women of color. And since 2009, one third of all the jobs gained during the recovery have been in these low-wage sectors. In other words, we’re seeing disproportionate growth in this sector–for everyone. 

In a recent column, David Brooks worried that men seem to be “unable to cross the threshold into the new economy.” “Surely,” he ventures, “part of the situation is that many men simply do not want to put themselves in positions they find humiliating.” Let’s aside for a moment the fact that this is totally absurd. As Matt Taibbi writes, “Pretty much everyone who doesn’t have a job will do just about anything short of organ donation to get a job.” The problem is there simply still aren’t enough. And the evidence shows men–like, um, anyone everyone who needs a job to feed and house themselves and their families–take what they can get. So in an economy that’s providing more low-wage jobs, particularly in the service and care work industries, that’s where they’ll be. Indeed, according to Mike Conceal, men are moving into these traditionally female-dominated occupations–in fact, they’re taking a majority of the new jobs there.

Brooks’ comment about humiliation is telling, though. As Bryce Covert wrote recently, “We’re all women workers now.” Perhaps now that men are increasingly forced into jobs that used to fall mostly to women–jobs that don’t pay enough and tend to require a lot of emotional labor–we’ll come to see that human dignity demands that these workers be respected and better compensated. Otherwise, as Bryce writes, the bar will just keep “dropping beneath all workers’ feet.”

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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