Men Avoid Direct Care Jobs, Compounding Workforce Shortage

January 13, 2017

 “Why Men Don’t Want the Jobs Done Mostly by Women,” a recent article in the New York Times, highlights the gender dynamics impacting the direct care workforce.

Male-Dominated Jobs Shrinking; "Pink-Collar Jobs" Growing

Many of the jobs that are disappearing from our economy, such as machine operators, are male-dominated jobs. Meanwhile, the jobs that are experiencing the most growth, such as home health aides, have traditionally been filled by women. Men are less likely to take these “pink-collar jobs,” largely because, according to the article, “the jobs done by women, especially caregiving jobs, have always had lower pay and lower status.”

The low status of these jobs prevents many men, even those who are unemployed and looking for a job, from considering these pink-collar positions. According to Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist and public policy professor at Johns Hopkins, “We have a cultural lag where our views of masculinity have not caught up to the change in the job market.”

“It’s not a skill mismatch, but an identity mismatch,” added Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard.

Men Shun Direct Care Jobs

The Times article calls attention to an important issue that needs to be addressed--men do not want to take jobs as paid caregivers. Over the last decade, despite a major recession and steep losses in the manufacturing sector, the percentage of men and women in nursing assistant and home care occupations has barely budged. Persistently, the data shows about 90 percent of these jobs are held by women.

Better Wages and Career Paths Could Attract More Men

Providers across the country are reporting that their most significant challenge is recruiting enough workers to meet the rising demand for paid caregivers. This gap between supply and demand is creating a caregiving crisis that our nation will not be able to address unless men too join the ranks of home care aides and nursing assistants. The solutions PHI has been calling for--such as raising wages and providing career advancement opportunities--could help to increase the prestige associated with these occupations and make some men more willing to accept what has long been seen as “women’s work.”

--by Allison Cook

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