Women set to outnumber men at work in America
One person's adversity is often another's opportunity. That's certainly proving to be the case in recession-hit North America. A spurt in firing of men and hiring of women has resulted in women now outnumbering men in the Canadian workforce, accounting for 50.9% of the country's 14 million salaried workers.
In the US, too, women now hold 49.8% of that country's 132 million jobs and are projected to cross the 50% mark by the first quarter of 2010 when the US will - according to President Barack Obama - come out of recession.
American daily USA Today has described this as a historic reversal caused by long-term changes in women's roles and job losses for men during recession.
''Women are gaining the majority of jobs in the few sectors of the economy that are growing,'' the newspaper said. As a matter of fact, at the current pace, women could even outnumber male workers in the US by November this year.
Across the border in Canada, there are 160,000 more women in jobs than men, according to The Toronto Star.
Nobody in Canada really noticed when in 2007 women first outnumbered men in the workforce for three months from February to April. But this year, women's dominance in paid employment (50.9%) clearly marks a turning point. This is the first time it has lasted this long and the differences have been significantly high.
In the US, gender transformation is particularly visible in local governments' 14.6 million work force. Cities, schools, water authorities and other local jurisdictions have cut out 86,000 men from payrolls during the recession while adding 167,000 women.
The postal service is cutting tens of thousands of unionised, blue collar jobs dominated by men while new hires are expanding in teaching and other fields dominated by college educated women.
But analysts say these figures could be red herrings and that the historic milestones hold little promise for women in their longstanding battle for economic equality.
The Toronto Star said women still make up about 70% of part-time workers and 60% of minimum wage earners in Canada.
"Nearly 40% are in precarious jobs that are poorly paid with little or no benefits," it said. And the average full-time female worker earns just 71.4 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
In US, the boost has come due to massive job cuts in male-dominated professions such as construction and manufacturing. Through June, men lost 74% of the 6.4 million jobs erased since the recession began. Men have lost over 3 million jobs in construction and manufacturing alone.
Labour economist Heidi Hartmann says the change reflects the growing importance of women as wage earners, but it doesn't show full equality. "On average, women work fewer hours than men, hold more part-time jobs and earn 77% of what men make," she said. Men also still dominate higher-paying executive ranks.