Womens Work Is Critical to National Jobs Recovery

by Womens eNews | Womens eNews
Wednesday, 7 September 2011 19:34 GMT

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Working Different Sectors Women and men still tend to work in different sectors of the economy. Women are concentrated in federal, state and local government jobs (the public sector) and men are concentrated in private sector jobs. This means their unemployment is caused by different factors. Following Washington's debt-ceiling debacle, there's even more pressure on the public sector to scrap jobs. Women hold a disproportionate share of public sector jobs because of the age-old link between women, children and families, and because these jobs pay less. Jobs in K-12 education, child protective services or other programs providing direct services to families don't challenge gender ideology. Stable public sector schedules facilitate women's family care work. If one worker in a household is reasonably sure s/he won't be asked to attend a meeting on another continent with four hours notice, then s/he is "free" to be what law professor Joan Williams calls "the ideal worker," an employee who can subordinate every other aspect of life to employer demands. And of course there's the low pay. But once tax revenues to state and local governments fell (to levels below those of 2005), cutting public payrolls or raising taxes became necessary. These governments can not legally borrow to meet current expenditures--their indebtedness is limited to borrowing for capital improvements like schools, hospitals and roads. And cut payrolls they did. U.S. News reports that since the end of the recession, 600,000 public sector jobs have been eliminated, bringing total job losses in the state/local government sector to nearly a million. For each paycheck eliminated, purchasing power in the surrounding community declines. Unemployed teachers, caseworkers and nurses buy less. Since they spend less, fewer sales tax dollars are collected. At the same time, income taxes on all those erased jobs disappear. Making matters worse, falling home values reduce property taxes, and even more local revenue is wiped out. As each community takes these hits, local businesses cut back employment or hours or both. This causes another round of reduced spending . . . and on and on it goes. 'Savings' Wiped Out At a certain point the dollars of public spending "saved" by firing public employees is all but wiped out by reduced tax collections caused by subsequent cycles of lay offs and reduced work hours. The suffering caused by this massive contraction of economic activity is not limited to those whose jobs have disappeared. The Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute reports that in 2009 almost 1-in-3 workers were either unemployed or underemployed. For blacks and Hispanics the shares were 36 percent and 41 percent respectively. In consequence, nearly 38 percent of all families have seen either wages and benefits fall or reductions in hours worked. Another 24 percent lost employer coverage of health insurance, while 18 percent are having trouble making mortgage payments or are experiencing foreclosure. This employment disaster reaches deep into the next generation, with 13 million children (about 18 percent) experiencing a parent's unemployment or underemployment, an amount that's nearly double that of 2007, when the figure was 6.4 million children (about 9 percent). The situation is even more serious for black and Hispanic families, where about 25 percent of children see their parent's go without full-time work. There used to be a lot of talk in this country about family values. Mostly that was invoked to romanticize women's exclusion from the labor market, so they were trapped at home tending to their family's needs. The expiration date on that social vision is long past. Right now, Americans--women and men--need the full time, well paid jobs essential to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Would you like to Comment but not sure how? Visit our help page at http://www.womensenews.org/help-making-comments-womens-enews-stories. Would you like to Send Along a Link of This Story?http://www.womensenews.org/story/equal-payfair-wage/110907/womens-work-critical-national-jobs-recovery Susan F. Feiner is professor of economics and professor of women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. For more information: "What's Good for Women Is Good for the Nation: Jobs, Livable Wages and Equal Pay," Huffington Post:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/terry-oneill/whats-good-for-women-is-g_b_948570.html "An Update on State Budget Cuts," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=1214 "The Federal Budget is a Feminist Issue A Toolkit for Chapters and Activists," NOW:http://www.now.org/issues/economic/2012budget/ "Second Anniversary of the Recovery Shows No Job Growth for Women," National Women's Law Center:http://www.nwlc.org/resource/second-anniversary-recovery-shows-no-job-growth-women