Jobs for the Girls

Women's Lib has come, it seems, at the expense of jobs for the boys. There's been a noticeable drop in the proportion of males working full time. Is it all down to women grabbing the jobs that would otherwise have gone to men?

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for equal opportunity and it's terrific that the proportion of women in their mid-20s to mid-50s working full time has increased from less than 30 percent in the late '70s to more than 40 percent today. The downside, though, is a 7 percent drop in the number of men in the same age range who are now working full time.

In early 1978 there were 2.5 million men aged 25-55 with a full time job, and just 752,000 women. In the latest ABS Labour Force statistics, released this week, that figure has risen to 3.8 million men and 2.1 million women. The ratio has moved from women having 23 percent of all full-time jobs, up to 36 percent.

Of course, the ideal scenario is for men and women each to have half of all the full-time jobs, but the number of jobs to have increased to reflect the higher availability of labour. The reality is that while the population aged 25-55 has increased by 74 percent since 1978, the number of people employed in full-time jobs has increased by only 52 percent. Someone had to lose out --- and it was the men.

If men (aged 25-55) were to retain their employment status from 1978 then 4.1 million of them should now be in full-time employment now, but the actual figure is only 3.8 million. To go back to the good old days 312,000 more men in this age group need to be employed full time.

If women in this age group were to rise today to the same ratio achieved by men in 1978 then an extra 2.1 million would be employed full time right now.

That means, if utopia is a world where men and women are equally employed at the level men attained in the late '70s, then this age group can support another 2.4 million full-time jobs. That's a lot!

Of course many people, of both genders, will prefer not to take up a full-time employment option. Some might be striving for work-life balance, or running their own business, or being educated. Then there's that whole thing to do with babies.

Nonetheless, it shows if Australia wants to increase productivity, it can do a lot more without massive increases in population. After all, we already have a vast new labour force on hand --- they're called women!