The workplace of the future may belong to women.
The shifting dynamics of the labor market are increasingly rewarding jobs that require social and analytical skills, as well as people with college degrees, according to a new study from Pew Research Center and the Markle Foundation, which analyzed government jobs data and surveyed more than 5,000 U.S. adults. Those changes are likely to increasingly reward women, who hold the majority of jobs where social and analytical skills are essential, the report said.
The findings underline the divide that’s currently expressed in the presidential election, with uneducated white men more likely to show support for Republican candidate Donald Trump, who has promised to bring back manufacturing jobs lost to China and Mexico. Two traditional male sectors -- manufacturing and utilities -- were the only two segments to show negative growth over the past 25 years, Pew’s analysis found. On top of that, wages for jobs that depend on physical skills grew at less than half the rate of those where analytical or social skills are required, it found.
“A shifting economic landscape is driving significant changes in the American workplace,” the report noted. “Employment opportunities increasingly lie in jobs requiring higher-level social or analytical skills, or both. Physical or manual skills, as much in demand as social or analytical skills some three decades ago, are fading in importance.”
Women’s median earnings have jumped 32 percent during the past 35 years, the report found. By comparison, men have seen their earnings decline by 3 percent over the same period.
That’s helped narrow the gender pay gap, which continues to exist despite the gains made by women. At the same time, women are more likely to say that the skills that are increasingly in demand from employers are important. For instance, about 42 percent of women said that training in writing and communication is important to get ahead, while only 32 percent of men agreed.
The findings double up on a recent analysis from economic research firm Sentier Research, which found that working-class white men have been left in the dust by the economy. White men with college degrees have benefited from wage gains, while their high-school educated counterparts have suffered income losses from 1996 to 2014.
Employment growth has been strongest in educational services, health care and social assistance, and professional and business services, the report found. Together, these three sectors have added 20 million workers since 1990.
Americans aren’t blind to these trends, the survey found. Many are eager to increase their skills and add to their abilities to keep pace with the changing labor market, yet there is a divide by education. College-educated workers, for instance, are more likely to believe they need access to training to keep their skills up to date than those with only high-school degrees.
With the skyrocketing cost of a college degree, more Americans are debating how to pay for their children’s educations, or even if it’s worth the expense. College graduates tend to earn more and have lower unemployment rates than less educated Americans, but Pew found that they also are happier with their jobs and feel that their education has helped them grow personally and intellectually while also providing more job opportunities.
More than six in 10 workers said that good jobs are hard to come by where they live, the survey found.
“A broad pattern of pessimism pervades people’s views when they think about the prospects of good jobs in their areas,” the report said. “Even those with full-time jobs, those who live in high-income households and have high levels of education, those in every job sector, those in small companies and those in larger corporations, hourly workers and salaried workers, and those in every region of the country and every type of community are more downcast than upbeat about the availability of good jobs.”
Still, that’s an improvement from the depths of the recession, when more than 8 out of 10 Americans said their communities lacked good job opportunities.
So what about the impact of immigration on employment? The issue has been a hot button in the presidential election, with Trump proposing to build a wall at the border between Mexico and the U.S. and to “end sanctuary cities.”
But Americans aren’t as convinced about the impact of immigration on their jobs. About 42 percent say having more immigrants helps workers, while 45 percent say it hurts them. That represents a significant shift from a decade ago, when only 28 percent believed that immigration helped workers and 55 percent said it was a negative.
Then there’s the issue of automation, or the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” which is forecast to cause. The Americans who are most likely to worry about robots coming for their jobs are those with some college education or only a high school degree. College-educated Americans are more likely to feel secure that that won’t be replaced by technology.