One of the big, long-term trends in the US economy has been the transition from manufacturing to services.
In fact, employment in “knowledge-intensive” and service-sector sectors has doubled since 1990, while manufacturing employment has dropped by a third, according to a Pew Research Center report.
And this trend has translated into a greater demand for “higher-level social” and/or “analytical” skills.
However, not everyone has benefited equally from the shift to services, which now makes up about two-thirds of economic activity in the US and the majority of job creation.
“The shifting need for skills may have worked to the benefit of women, since they are more likely than men to be employed in occupations needing higher levels of social and analytical skills, whereas men are relatively more engaged in jobs calling for greater physical and manual skills,” according to the Pew Research Center’s latest report on the “State of American Jobs.”
And taking it a step further, Pew argues that this may have contributed to the narrowing of the wage gap between women and men, which is around 80 cents to the dollar in 2015 compared with 60 cents on the dollar in 1980, as jobs requiring those analytical and social skills tend to pay more than manual work.
Notably, although women made up less than half of the total workforce in 2015 (47%), they made up 55% of workers in jobs that required “average or above-average levels” of social skills and 52% of workers in jobs that required “higher analytical skills.” (Think: education, healthcare, business services.)
By comparison, women only made up about 30% of jobs requiring “higher levels of physical skills,” according to Pew’s data. Or, in other words, 70% of those employed in jobs that required “higher levels of physical skills” are men.
At the same time, wages have increased faster in jobs that require “higher levels” of social skills and/or analytical skills compared to jobs that required “higher physical skills,” which you can see in the above chart. And this suggests that wages in jobs where the majority of workers are women have seen wages increase faster than in those industries where the majority of workers are men.
It’s also worth noting that male education levels have stagnated relative to those of women in the US. And, Pew’s report notes that “there is a strong link between workers’ level of education and the odds of their working in jobs that require higher levels of social or analytical skills.”
So putting those two things together suggests that
women could be more competitive applicants for a variety of jobs — especially those in the services sector.