Why Men Don’t Want the Jobs Done Mostly by Women
By Claire Cain Miller
Jan 4 2017
It hasn’t been a great time to be a man without a job.
The jobs that have been disappearing, like machine operator, are predominantly those that men do. The occupations that are growing, like health aide, employ mostly women.
One solution is for the men who have lost jobs in factories to become health aides. But while more than a fifth of American men aren’t working, they aren’t running to these new service-sector jobs. Why? They require very different skills, and pay a lot less.
They’re also seen as women’s work, which has always been devalued in the American labor market.
The two occupations predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to decline most quickly from 2014 to 2024 are locomotive firers, shrinking 70 percent, and vehicle electronics installers and repairers, down 50 percent. They are 96 percent and 98 percent male.
Of the fastest-growing jobs, many are various types of health aides, which are about 90 percent female. When men take these so-called pink-collar jobs, they have more job security and wage growth than in blue-collar work, according to recent research. But they are paid less and feel stigmatized.
“The jobs being created are very different than the jobs being eliminated,” said David Autor, an economist at M.I.T. “I’m not worried about whether there will be jobs. I’m very worried about whether there will be jobs for low-educated adults, especially the males, who seem very reluctant to take the new jobs.”
Take Tracy Dawson, 53, a welder in St. Clair, Mo. He lost several jobs, some because his employers took the work to China and Mexico and others because the workers were replaced by robots. He has heard the promises of fast-growing jobs in the health care field: His daughter trained to be a medical technician. But he never considered it.
“I ain’t gonna be a nurse; I don’t have the tolerance for people,” he said. “I don’t want it to sound bad, but I’ve always seen a woman in the position of a nurse or some kind of health care worker. I see it as more of a woman’s touch.”
Also, health aides earn a median wage of $10.50 an hour. Mr. Dawson used to earn $18 an hour making railroad traction motors. “I was a welder — that’s all I know how to do,” said Mr. Dawson, who is living on disability insurance because he has rheumatoid arthritis.
Women were hit harder than men by the decline in middle-skill jobs, according to Mr. Autor. But they have more easily moved into the expanding occupations, and earn more college degrees than men.