American women are leaving the workforce in their thousands in the face of economic stagnation.
In the US, women are now leaving the workforce at the same rate as men and for the same reasons – the economic downturn, according to an article in today’s New York Times. This is a complete change in the social makeup of the US. Since the 1960s, each decade has ended with more women in the workforce than there were at the start of it, but the position in the past couple of years is beginning to reverse.
It was formerly believed that women were dropping out to look after their children, following the motherhood movement, but this is apparently not the case – they are dropping out because they can’t find decent paying work and – like men before them – they are unwilling to take major pay cuts.
As factories lay off workers and new jobs open up but only paying a fraction of former wages, more women are choosing to stay home until they can find something better, placing a considerable burden on unemployment provision.
“While pay was rising solidly in the 1990s, you had women continuing to move into the work force,” said Leonard Katz, a Harvard labour economist. But now wage stagnation is discouraging women from pursuing new jobs.
The trend has important implications for the US economy because women bring home a third of the average household income, and only households with a working wife have seen real improvements in their standard of living over the past decades.
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