The Future of Men and Women at Work

The Future of Men and Women at Work

Looking at the latest projections of labor market trends in the coming years from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indeed’s chief economist Jed Kolko zooms in on professions predominantly held by employees of one gender, to see what lessons can be gleaned about the future job prospects of American men and women. In the context of the US’s decades-long transition from a manufacturing to a service economy, Kolko finds, the occupations expected to grow the fastest in the coming decade include female-dominated jobs like nurse practitioners and physical or occupational therapy assistants, while traditionally male professions are set to grow much more slowly, or not at all:

But plenty of traditionally male jobs will expand, too. Among occupations that are at least 60% male, ambulance drivers are expected to have the fastest growth, and another healthcare-related occupation, emergency medical technician, is also on the top-ten list. Several computer- and finance-related occupations, like personal financial advisor and web developer, are predicted to grow quickly as well. (Of course the gender mix of either male-dominated or female-dominated jobs might change in the future, due to changing job-seeker interest or employer recruiting practices.)

On the flip side: even though the fastest growing occupations skew toward those that are typically held by women, some traditionally female-dominated jobs are also at risk. Some of these are clearly being replaced by technology, like telephone operators, word processors (yes, kids, that’s a job title, not just a computer application or defunct machine), and travel agents; several others are related to apparel manufacturing.

A big part of the challenge for America’s male workforce is that the “men’s jobs” that are disappearing are largely in roles that require little or no education, while those that are growing are more highly skilled. Manufacturing is one example of a traditionally male occupation in which the new jobs being created require more advanced skills than those that have disappeared, meaning that the manufacturing workforce of the future may not be quite so male-dominated. Overall, Kolko explains, less-educated men are “dramatically more likely to be in male-dominated occupations than more educated men”:

Half of men with a high school diploma or less work in occupations that are overwhelmingly (that is, more than four-fifths) male, compared with 20% of men with bachelor’s degrees and 11% of men with graduate or professional degrees. … The pattern is different for women, who are most likely to work in overwhelmingly female occupations if they have some college or an associate’s degree (that’s the norm for many female-dominated healthcare occupations like licensed practical nurses and dental hygienists).

Therefore, fast-growing male jobs that require lots of education don’t really help men without a college degree who have been in traditionally male jobs and for whom work is part of male identity. And the challenge is that traditionally male jobs requiring less education are projected to grow slowly.