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America’s segregated labour market

MEN and women often pursue different lines of work. This form of segregation has important consequences. The fastest-growing industries in America are those that have long employed more women, such as health care and education. Meanwhile, many sectors traditionally dominated by men, such as manufacturing and mining, have grown much more slowly. This does not mean that female workers are better off. Although female-dominated industries have suffered fewer job losses from globalisation and technological change, they also pay less.

As more workers enter professions previously dominated by the opposite sex, many of these gender gaps will narrow. Today, women graduate from university at higher rates than men, putting them in a stronger position for many well-paid professional jobs that were once male-dominated. In the 1960s, less than 10% of American doctors and lawyers were women. Today, the figure is closer to 40%. More men are also entering many female-dominated professions like teaching, nursing and food services. Today over 60% of chefs and cooks are men, up from just 35% 50 years ago. But this process takes time. It took over 50 years for men to capture a mere 10% of all nursing jobs. At this rate, the field will not achieve gender parity for another 200 years.

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