This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.
Author: Katica Roy, CEO and Founder, Pipeline Equity
- As a female-dominated industry, the care economy has succumbed to wage inequality via job devaluation.
- Increasing the number of men working in the care sector would reduce women’s workload on the supply side, allowing women to pursue careers in other sectors.
- It would also raise wages for all workers in the care sector, thereby reducing the gender pay gap.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has made the care economy fashionable in political circles, well-meaning solutions devote only minimal attention to how to equitably close the gaps in this industry. If we really believe in the importance of gender equity and the need for healthcare infrastructure, why don’t we formulate solutions to increase the number of men in care?
I propose a strategy for the care economy based on the premise of gender equity economics. As Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said during Davos 2022investing in childcare would “unleash the potential” of women.
If unlocking women’s potential is the outcome, how could increasing the contribution of men’s labor to the paid care industry be the input? AAchieving Gender Equity in the United States Could Activate $3.1 Trillion in Economic Energy. We must explore the viability of this solution.
Desegregation of care work
Women dominate the care industry today. IIn the United States, they make up 95% of the paid workforce. As a female-dominated industry, the care economy has succumbed to wage inequality via job devaluation. The average Latina educator, for example, earned just $22,074 in 2020 – a barely livable salary.
Occupational segregation and its derivative, occupational devaluation, plague other industries beyond childcare. Take the example of information technology managers and human resource managers. The first biases the male and the second the female. Both require similar levels of education and responsibility, but CIOs enjoy 27% higher median earnings than their HR counterparts.
Five decades of labor market data demonstrate the dynamic nature of professional devaluation. As more women enter an industry, wages go down; the more men enter an industry, the higher the wages. A statistical experiment on the salary-gender spiral found that high-skilled jobs with 0% female labor would pay $1,555 per week, while high-skilled jobs with 100% female labor would pay only $840 per week.
That’s a 46% pay gap and it corroborates research that suggests how gender differences in occupation and industry explain 51% of the gender pay gap. In 2019 alone, occupational segregation robbed black women of $39.3 billion and Hispanic women 46.7 billion in income compared to white men.
A fair solution for a broken care economy
Occupational segregation matters because it restricts the supply of labor and hurts everyone’s economic prospects. Men make up 50% of the population, but only make up 5% of the healthcare workforce. A third of childcare jobs disappeared during the pandemic and more than 1 in 10 educators has not yet reintegrated into the labor market.
To reinvent the care economy, we must stop asking women to bear the burden of labor supply in this underfunded industry. Increasing the number of men working in the care sector would achieve two economic goals:
1. Reduce women’s workload on the supply side of the care sector, freeing up women to pursue careers in other sectors
When we stop asking women to carry the burden of labor supply in the care industry, it frees them to pursue high-reward careers in industries of the future of work. Women occupy less than 25% of jobs in emerging professions such as artificial intelligence specialists, back-end developers, big data developers, data engineers, DevOps engineers, front-end engineers and full-stack developers. In the booming field of cloud computing, women represent only 14.2% of talent. Designing gender equity in the Fourth industrial revolutionwe need more women in STEM and more men in care.
2. Raise the wages of all workers in the care sector, thereby reducing the gender pay gap
Increasing the share of men in the care workforce would increase the industry’s extremely low wages, as the wage spiral between men and women shows. Raising the salaries of the care workforce would narrow the gender pay gap and provide relief to an economy on the brink of recession. Research shows that by closing the gender pay gap, we can strengthen the U.S. economy by at least $512 billion.
What is the World Economic Forum doing on diversity, equity and inclusion?
The COVID-19 pandemic and recent social and political unrest have created a deep sense of urgency for businesses to actively work to address inequality.
The Forum’s work on diversity, equality, inclusion and social justice is driven by the New economy and society Platform, which focuses on building prosperous, inclusive and just economies and societies. In addition to its work on economic growth, recovery and transformation, labour, wages and job creation, and education, skills and learning, the Platform takes an integrated and holistic approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice, and aims to combat exclusion, prejudice and discrimination based on race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity.
The platform produces data, standards and information, such as the Global Gender Gap Report and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkitand drives or supports action initiatives, such as Partnership for Racial Justice in Business, The Valuable 500 – Closing the Disability Inclusion Gap, Making gender parity part of the future of work, Closing the Gender Gap National Acceleratorsthe Partnership for Global LGBTI Equalitythe Community of Diversity and Inclusion Directors and the Global Futures Council on Equity and Social Justice.
Three steps towards gender parity in the care sector
Here are three steps policymakers can take to redesign the care industry with gender equity at its core:
- Step 1: Encourage careers in care for all genders, not just women. Millions of dollars flow to programs for women in STEM. We need similar programs to inspire men to pursue careers in caregiving. Study after study showed that being a man and caring about others are not incompatible.
- 2nd step: Measuring the value of caregiving in formal economic relationships. It is time for a broader and more inclusive approach to measuring the economy. We need to recognize the value of paid and unpaid care in economic measures such as GDP. Colombia started reporting this data more than ten years ago, and in 2020, found that their care economy was 20% of national GDP.
- Step 3: Provide gender-neutral leave for caregivers to reduce stigma around caregiving. Almost half, 48%, of fathers aspire to be full-time stay-at-home dads, but traditional narratives around masculinity hold them back. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of men believe that taking time off work to care for children would jeopardize their professional reputation. Providing gender-neutral compassionate care leave to all employees can help de-stigmatize the role of men in the care economy.
Women have been burning both ends of the candle for decades now. It’s time to put out the flames of inequity and rebuild our broken care economy in the fairest way possible.