Data Projects Job Growth to be More in Low-Wage Majority-Female Occupations

WASHINGTON —In what is not good news for the nation’s workers, and especially for woman workers, a respected think tank’s new analysis of federal job data and projections shows huge job growth through 2022 will be in low-wage majority-female occupations.

            The analysis, by the D.C.-based National Women’s Law Center, adds impetus to the recent movement by low-wage workers – fast food workers, retail workers, Wal-Mart workers, warehouse workers, etc. – for a living wage and the right to organize.  It also fleshes out a 2013 prediction of that future job trend by Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry.  Her union is actively recruiting the low-wage workers to its ranks.

            The conclusion is important because more than 47% of the nation’s workers are women, because some two-thirds of women work, and because it implies that if millions of incoming female workers get shoehorned into low-wage jobs, they and their families will suffer and U.S. income inequality will continue to widen.

NWLC reported that 18 of the 30 occupations that will add the most jobs by 2022 are female-dominated, meaning that 60% or more of their workers are women.  The catch is that 13 of those same occupations – eight of them female-dominated – are low-wage sectors, meaning those where workers earn $13.83 per hour or less.

And all five of the lowest-paid high-growth occupations — personal care aides, home health aides, combined food preparation and serving workers (including fast food workers), childcare workers, and maids and housekeepers – are at least 60% female, NWLC says after analyzing federal data.  Those workers earn $10 an hour or less.

The food workers are the lowest-paid of the five groups, with an average worker earning less than $19,000 yearly.  Federal figures project the nation will add another 422,000 food preparers to the current 2.97 million, a growth of 14%.  And 55% of current food preparers and servers, including the fast food workers, are women.

As disquieting are the two occupations expected to grow the most by 2022.  Personal care aide numbers are projected to rise 48.8%, to 1.77 million by 2022, and home health aides are projected to increase by 48.5%, to 1.99 million.  Both occupations are among those with the lowest annual pay ($19,910 and $20,820 respectively) and highest shares of woman workers (85% of personal care aides and 88% of home health care aides).

“The 30 high-growth occupations will add almost 7.4 million jobs to the economy between 2012 and 2022,” or more than 47% of all job growth by then, NWLC said.  Those 30 occupations now account for one-third of all jobs.

“Job gains, especially women’s job gains, have been concentrated in low-wage occupations during the recovery – and this trend is projected to continue,” their analysis says.  “Our economy needs a range of jobs, but we need growth in jobs that provide a decent wage and benefits and allow families to be economically secure and policymakers must take steps to make this happen,” it concludes.

-PAI