Australian women mostly working in same jobs since 1980s

It’s a drag on the economy

Having our labour market organised this way comes at a big cost.

Suppose we believe that innate ability to do most jobs is similar between females and males. In other words, while some people will be better accountants than nurses, and others better nurses than accountants, those proportions don’t vary much between females and males.

This means, if we want the people who are going to be the best working in any job, we need a relatively even balance of females and males. Without that, national productivity will be lower than it could be.

A 2019 study by economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and colleagues at the University of Chicago and Stanford shows just how much this can matter.

Their paper estimates 20-40 per cent of growth in GDP per capita in the United States between 1960 and 2010 came from reducing occupational segregation by sex and ethnicity.

There is also a human cost from occupational segregation, with individuals being prevented from working in the jobs from which they will derive the greatest satisfaction.

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