Give me a crash course in . . . the changing workforce

Sat, Jun 30, 2012, 01:00

So there are more female than male employees for the first time. Are women finally taking over?Not quite. The latest batch of census results shows that, when broken down by occupation, the number of female employees rose to 785,000 while the number of male employees fell to 710,000, an unprecedented development. Males dominate workers classified as self-employed, however, so in total there were still more men at work (955,000) than women (853,000). But the gap is narrowing. In fact it’s at its smallest on record.

Where have all the men gone? They can’t all have emigrated, surely.The collapse in male-dominated areas of employment, such as construction and manufacturing, between the 2006 and 2011 censuses resulted in a jump in unemployment among men. Overall they accounted for about 70 per cent of the additional unemployed people. Many ended up on the dole, and some emigrated, but thousands have gone back to education.

Why are women getting all the jobs these days?They’re not, although they did get a greater proportion of them between 2006 and 2011. Job growth was concentrated in areas that were much more likely to employ women, such as education, public administration, health and social work. By contrast, the bottom fell out of male-dominated sectors such as construction, which was responsible for the loss of 125,000 jobs since the last census.

Is that, in a way, good news for gender equality?Not necessarily. Yes, many of the traditional gender gaps are narrowing. There are almost equal numbers of males and females in education, while the long-standing imbalance between men and women in the labour force is being corrected. But some significant gaps remain. At the most senior levels of employment, men continued to dominate. They accounted for most managers (54 per cent) and higher professionals. Men are still paid, on average, more than women. And females still account for the overwhelming majority of unpaid carers and home-makers.

Have most immigrants decided to leave, given all this economic doom and gloom?You might have thought so, but the census results tell a different story. The number of non-Irish nationals at work has increased by almost 10 per cent since the last census. In contrast, there was a 9 per cent fall in the number of Irish nationals at work. Polish nationals accounted for 80 per cent of the 24,000 additional workers.

Has anywhere in the country been immune to the downturn?Everywhere has been hit, but some areas have fared worse than others. When measured by local authority area, Co Offaly experienced the biggest increase in unemployment. The rate tripled from 8.5 per cent in 2006 to 23 per cent in 2011. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, in Co Dublin, had the lowest unemployment rate at 11.2 per cent and the lowest increase in unemployment. It also had the highest proportion of people with managerial or professional occupations, at almost 55 per cent, and the lowest proportion of unskilled workers.

Carl O’Brien

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