Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hidden Casualties: Trade, Employment Loss & Women Workers

The media image of the unemployed factory worker is usually male. But the reality is that working women have been hurt as much as men when it comes to manufacturing job loss. The impact is often worse for women because many are single parents.

A new report by the public policy research group Demos shows when women lose manufacturing jobs, they rarely manage to get back into jobs with similar pay or benefits. Public training programs, through the Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) or Workforce Investment Act (WIA), often are inadequate to fill the gap.

The report, “Hidden Casualties: Trade, Employment Loss & Women Workers,” highlights the need for decent training for decent jobs with good wages, career progression and such key supports as child care and paid leave.

Click here to download the report.

One reason women workers are so adversely affected by manufacturing job loss is because they are concentrated in industries which have been drastically affected by the surge in cheap imports over the past decade, such as textiles, apparel and leather. Women make up more than 50 percent of the total workforce in these industries. Faced with high levels of foreign competition, these jobs have had high levels of trade-related job displacement.

The authors estimate that the industries with the highest percentage of women workers lost nearly 500,000 jobs between 1999 and 2008. Women also received a majority of the trade adjustment assistance during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today, they make up about 48 percent of TAA recipients.

Many manufacturing jobs pay much better than other jobs available to women workers without a college education. Reports culled for U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show the average weekly wage of $524 for textile industries in 2008 is about 30 percent higher than the average for the retail sector ($386) and almost double that of the average for the food services (restaurants) industry ($233).

The report also shows that current federal policies for dislocated workers are woefully insufficient, with many laid-off women workers receiving little help in finding a comparable job or handling family obligations.

The report calls for the U.S .policy-makers to develop a much more comprehensive set of policies to help workers and families navigate the economic restructuring caused by increasing trade and globalization.

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