The Gender Jobs Split: How young men and women experience the labour market
Young people’s first experiences of the labour market matter: the type and quality of employment when young can influence later occupations, wages and chances of unemployment; for many, their highest qualifications will be gained while in their late teens and early twenties, and unemployment or inactivity while young can lead to long-term wage scarring. The pathways young people take into the labour market therefore have long-term consequences.
Yet, there is little evidence on how pathways into the labour market differ by gender and how these differences have changed either in the long-term or since the recession. In our new report for the TUC The Gender Jobs Split – to be launched at the TUC’s Gender Jobs Split seminar tomorrow – Ian Brinkley, Neil Lee and I investigate how labour market experiences vary for young men and women. We consider three main areas of activity: young people in employment; young people in education; and young people who are not in education, employment and training.
The gender divide
Our analysis shows that gender segmentation by occupation starts early in working lives, but is particularly striking in the lower half of the labour market. For example, in 2011 about 20% of young men were in skilled trades compared with 1 % of young women, and 20% of young women were in personal services compared with 5% of young men. These differences have been remarkably persistent, and if anything, have worsened slightly since the early ‘90s.
Unemployment is high for both young men and young women. Young men disproportionately feature – just over 60% of all unemployed and 70% of the long term unemployed are young men. However, young women are more likely to quit an active job search and move into inactivity from unemployment.
Low pay and the private sector
The report finds that young people are more reliant on low paid unskilled jobs than they ever have been. And, whilst a greater share of young men work in unskilled jobs, the increase in young people working in these jobs has been much greater for young women. In 1993 just over 30% of young women worked in administrative jobs, and 7% in unskilled work; by 2011, these shares were 13% and 21% respectively. Young people and especially young men are also disproportionately affected by involuntary underemployment – nearly a third of young men and a fifth of young women were in involuntary part-time jobs in 2011.
Perhaps surprisingly, we also found that both young men and women are disproportionately likely to work in the private sector. 92% of young men and 87% of young women work in the private sector and there has been little change since the recession. That the youth labour market is primarily based in the private sector raises the question of why it has been so weak, given that recent employment growth in that sector has apparently been so strong.
Education and training
Education and qualifications are increasingly important in helping young people to navigate today’s labour market and are also often seen as a route to challenge traditionally gendered structures of employment. Looking at the qualification levels of young men and women, we found that today’s young women are better qualified than young men. However, while differences in educational attainment are clear, they are relatively small and do not explain the divisions in the labour market mentioned above. Apprenticeships have only had a limited impact on the youth labour market, but their take up both mirrors and magnifies gender segmentation in the wider labour market.
How can we better support young men and women in today’s labour market?
Our report makes several recommendations about how we can better support young men and women in today’s labour market, including:
- Ensuring employers who win major public procurement contracts provide more hiring and training opportunities for young men and women.
- Developing polices aimed at addressing gender segregation to be targeted at the bottom end of the youth labour market. This will involve schools promoting apprenticeships as an option for all and challenging traditional gender roles at an early stage.
- Providing more support and understanding from employers and the government for women with caring responsibilities.
- Creating specialist youth and employment services that will provide advice and support to young people in their first few years of employment, instead of just focusing on getting them a job.
- Providing better information about the opportunities and returns for from different qualifications and careers.