Gender unemployment gaps

Date posted: March 25, 2014

Host Mary Walden points out that issues in the labor market have not impacted everyone equally. One difference we see today is that the jobless rate for men is higher than that for women. She asks her husband and N.C. State economist Mike Walden, “Is this unusual when we look around the world?”

Mike Walden: “It’s actually not, Mary, if you look at the U.S., that you’re citing, you look at the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Germany, some of the more advanced countries in the world, you see the same thing. And I think the main reason is really two-fold.

“Number one, the nature of jobs has changed. Jobs today are in general less physically demanding, more brain power is being used. And that obviously fits the capabilities of the average woman, perhaps more than the average man. Also, more women now are going to college. In fact, in most colleges and universities the majority of students are female. And of course, we know that people with higher degrees of education actually have a lower unemployment rate.

“So, I think these are a couple of the key differences. Now, we don’t see this — this gender difference with unemployment rates for women being lower than for men — everywhere. In fact, interestingly in France and Italy, the men’s unemployment rate is still lower than it is for women, and many say that’s due to some cultural changes, some restrictions on the economy.

“But even in those countries, Mary, the gap has been narrowing between men’s unemployment rate and women’s unemployment rate. Now certainly there are many other issues related to the employment prospects for women, but on this key difference, the unemployment rate looks like the trends are favoring women over men.”

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