FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC—A new study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and Oxfam America finds that more than one in four employed women in the United States are concentrated in low-wage “women’s work”—such as teaching young children, cleaning, serving, and caring for elders—jobs that are done primarily by women, pay less than $15 per hour, and provide few benefits. Workers in these female-dominated jobs, who are disproportionately women of color, earn less than men working in jobs with similar requirements for education, skills, stamina, and hours. For instance, maids and housekeepers, who earn $9.94 per hour, are 90 percent female, while janitors, who are mostly men, earn 22 percent more, at $12.13 per hour.
Workers in low-wage, female-dominated occupations are better educated than those in other low-wage occupations, yet earn less than workers in mixed or male-dominated fields. More than half (52.3 percent) of workers in low-wage, “women’s work” fields have education beyond a high school diploma, compared with only 38 percent of workers in all other low-wage jobs. Yet, workers in female-dominated, low-wage jobs—4 in 5 of whom are women—make $11.30 per hour on average, while workers in all other low-wage jobs—one in three of whom are women—make $0.51 more per hour.
Despite growing levels of education and training among its workers, low-wage women’s work does not sustain families. About four in ten women working full time in these jobs live in or near poverty and three in five mothers in these jobs depend on subsidized lunch programs for their children. Rates of public assistance program use, such as food stamps (SNAP benefits) and Medicaid, are higher than those in other low-wage occupations.
”Our society needs to recognize the economic and social value of the work that women perform in predominantly female, low-wage jobs, which includes caring for the elderly and young children. Policy must address the continuing stark segregation of women, and especially women of color, into jobs that are underpaid for their skill levels, despite being crucial to our nation’s economy. Improving the quality of these low wage jobs, and creating pathways to stable careers, is a critical part of strengthening our nation’s infrastructure,” said IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault, Ph.D.
Other findings from the study, Undervalued and Underpaid in America: Women in Low-Wage, Female-Dominated Jobs, include:
As the population ages and the demand for care workers increases, employment in these jobs is projected to grow faster than the economy as a whole. By 2024, one in six jobs (15.5 percent) will be in these low-wage, female-dominated occupations, an increase of more than 25 percent since 1994.
“While much of the discussion post-election has focused on the economic anxiety that plagues American workers who’ve seen their wages steadily erode over the years, it’s women who are getting the raw end of the economic deal,” said Mary Babic, an Oxfam America spokesperson and author of the policy brief. “Millions of women find themselves compelled to take jobs involving ‘women’s work’-tasks carried over from the home. Nearly one in four women is segregated into these jobs that undervalue their education and skills, undercompensate their contributions, and exact heavy physical and emotional costs.”
The report and accompanying policy brief from Oxfam America includes recommendations to improve conditions for workers in these jobs, invest in the caregiving infrastructure, and build ladders to higher-paying occupations.
Read IWPR’s full report, Undervalued and Underpaid in America: Women in Low-Wage, Female-Dominated Jobs, at IWPR.org.
Read Oxfam America’s companion brief, “Undervalued and Underpaid in America: The Deck is Stacked Against Millions of Working Women,” at www.oxfamamerica.org/undervalued.
The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.
Oxfam is a global movement of people working together to end the injustice of poverty. With 70 years of experience in more than 90 countries, Oxfam takes on the big issues that keep people poor: inequality, discrimination, and unequal access to resources including food, water, and land. We help people save lives in disasters, build stronger futures for themselves, and hold the powerful accountable. Join us. www.oxfamamerica.org