Speaking of Women's Rights: Women in the “Mancession” – The Gender Poverty Gap

Monday, September 21, 2009

Women in the “Mancession” – The Gender Poverty Gap

One of the media’s latest catchy terms – “mancession” (see here and here) – describes the “unusual” fact that in this recession, a disproportionate number of recent job losses have been experienced by men. Of course, this by no means is any cause for celebration for women. (Except to the extent that some men may be more available to attend to that “honey-do” list – and on a more serious note, that gender stereotypes relating to domestic work may make some permanent shifts.)

In reality, even if fewer women have lost jobs in the past year than men, the latest Census Bureau figures also show that women are still 35% more likely to be poor than men, with a 2008 poverty rate of 13% compared to 9.6% for men. There’s no doubt we still have reason to be worried – and to focus on – economic justice for women. Consider these facts:

· Women’s earnings are increasingly important for families. Of families with children, 20% (1 in 5) are headed by working single mothers, and nearly half (46.6%) of families with children are supported by two working parents (as opposed to dual parent families with male breadwinners, or single fathers). (Figures are from this report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.)

· The unemployment rate for single mothers is higher than for either married men or women - 12.2% in August 2009 (compared to an overall 9.6% national unemployment rate).

· Women still make just 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. There is much research on why this is, but the wage gap is at least partly attributable to the fact that women’s jobs are concentrated in lower-paid industries, including retail, education, health care, and nonprofits.

· Women’s jobs also tend not to be family-sustaining jobs – not only because they tend to be lower paid, but also because they lack benefits such as health care, sick days, and retirement benefits.

· The poverty rate would be even higher if it reflected the reality for many working families and women and accounted for expenditures on child care, which make income unavailable for other basic needs. In 2002, child care cost an average of $412 per month.

· In many states, women are still ineligible for unemployment benefits if the reason that they leave work is because of a personal reason, rather than a work-related reason – for example, if their child care falls through or if a family member becomes ill and needs their care.

In these times of economic uncertainty, many feel thankful simply to have a job. But it’s even more important in these times to ensure that women workers aren’t disadvantaged – in seeking jobs, while on the job, or if they leave a job.