Labor entails both the work done by an individual in their own households as well as that offered in the labor market for some kind of financial compensation. The participation in the labor market has been characterized by variations and skewed participation in terms of female labor market supply. However, it is essential to acknowledge the dramatic increase in the number of female participation in the past few decades, although the number of women falls behind that of men significantly. There are numerous benefits associated with the participation of women in the labor force such as the need to cover the costs arising from demands created by the ageing society. The majority of the literature and the focus of the modern day studies are primarily based on the micro-economic and macro-economic factors, which explain the difference between women and men's participation in the labor force. Therefore, this paper will seek to explore the changes that have taken place in regard to the participation of labor in the United States and explore the factors that have led to the increased participation of women in the labor market.
The composition of American labor market participation has changed significantly over the past few decades as a result of increased participation of women in the labor market, as well as an increase in the number of minority workers. The changes in the labor force have also been due to an increase in the ageing population. Researchers have found that after a period of persistent and significant changes in the labor force for a period of more than 50 years in aggregate, the trends have stabilized. There have been numerous indicators of the changes in labor force participation based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The participation of women in the labor market has also been found to be a factor of their value system, which affects their decision making. The increase in moral obligation to work has increased the participation of women in the labor market. However, the traditional gender role in the social structures also affects the participation of women in the labor market. For example, the work ethic and woman's perception and consideration that housework is a form of work instead of participating in paid employment hinder the participation of women in the labor market.
The increase in the participation of women in the labor market is primarily based on the numerous structural changes such as the rise of the service sector and the process of de-industrialization. The structural changes in the labor market have resulted in increased flexibility and liberalization such as shift work, temporary jobs and part time jobs. Studies have found a strong relationship between the development of temporary, shift and part time jobs with the participation of women in the labor market. This because it has been identified that women are more involved in part time jobs as compared to men. This results from the fact that it enables them to participate in paid work and also cater for their family obligations. As a result, there exists a significant disparity between men and women in terms of pay and the number of working hours, since women are forced to work for fewer hours as compared to men. The current US labor market is characterized by an ageing population, low fertility population and mortality rates.
The graph below show recent statistics, regarding the participation of women and men in the labor market in the US. This is an indication that women still lag behind in terms of labor force participation at 57.2 percent in comparison with 69.7 percent rate of men's participation.
Therefore, there is a need for the participation of women in the labor market to fill the shortage created in the labor market. Additionally, there has been an increase in concerns of the need to reduce poverty and reduce gender inequalities. The participation of women in the labor market will play an imperative role in reducing these factors. There is a need to stimulate the participation of women owing to the factors that have been mentioned. However, it is essential to identify the issues and factors that influence and play a role in women decision making, regarding labor market. The explanations of women decision making in regard to labor market decision has been limited to institutional, micro and macro-economic explanations, but researchers have found that these approaches are not well versed to explain individual differences. Therefore, researchers have developed new theories and adopted other old theories such as the rational choice theory in explaining individual preferences.
The current trends in the US show a decline in the male female ratio, as well as white and black inequality in terms of participation in the workforce, but a wage differential based on education has been experienced. For example, an estimated 37.1 percent wage gap in 1984 declined to 23.8 percent in 1995, while the disparity between the white and the black decreased from 26.7 percent to 18 percent. The current disparities in the labor market in terms of the wages and salaries are primarily based on the skills that one possesses rather than race or gender. The rapid participation of women in the labor market is affiliated to various factors, which are social, political and economic in nature. For example, the changing social preferences and attitudes. This is because from the 1970s, there has been a deep seated change in the preferences of women in regard to participation in the labor market. This is highly attributed to the rise of feminist movements, which created the fundamental change of attitude and preference among women.
The period of feminist movements was characterized by a change of the role of women and social attitude towards women. Prior to the World War II, women were condemned to participate in the labor market and they were expected to within the family responsibilities, while men worked for provision. However, the rise of feminist movements transformed the societal attitudes and the development of legal anti-discriminatory laws such as the ‘equal pay for equal work’ dealt with discriminatory labor issues. This led to legal recognition of the woman's preference to participate in the labor market than stay at home.
The period after the World War II has been characterized by an increase in the educational achievement of women, which is attributed to the increase in women participation in the labor market. There are numerous studies, which have positively correlated education levels with engagement in the labor market. This is because people perceive education as an investment, such that it acts as an opportunity cost in terms of the income foregone when one is in college, in the hope that the skills learnt would create the opportunities of earning a higher income though a better job. This would in turn induce participation in the labor market. The increase in the participation of women in the labor market is also attributed to the labor market opportunities in the US. This has also been associated with an increase in real wage rates for women, with an absolute and relative expansion of women’s opportunities. Although there are only few jobs where women dominate, there has been a significant increase in such opportunities.
The need for the maintenance of higher standards of living has been another major factor compelling women to participate in the labor market. This mainly affected workers characterized by low wages. Therefore, the input of the woman in increasing income plays an imperative role in improving the standards of living in such families. However, middle and higher income families also involve women's participation in the labor force to preserve their standards of upper or middle lifestyles. In the current economic status, non participation of a spouse in the labor market leads to a decline in the real income.
In conclusion, the women in the US have increasingly joined the labor market as the labor market trends and structures continuously evolve. There is a disparity in income earned, although the current labor market determines the level of income based on educational level and skills. The factors that have led to the changes in the US labor market include increased education, the increase in real wage rates, social changes and the need to maintain high standards of living among other factors.
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