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Beyond Pink and Blue Collar: Jackman-Atkinson

June 24, 2017 8:05 AM | Columns

By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, myWestman

Construction Worker

NEEPAWA, Man. — This month, many young men and women will be graduating from high school and many more will be planning their future careers. These are uneasy times, the last few decades have seen a huge shift in the types of work people do, the jobs that are growing and the jobs that are dwindling.

Twenty years ago, mostly men, but some women too, found a well-worn path to the middle class through jobs in factories, plants and mines. Today, automation has meant that many of these jobs have ceased to exist and those that remain aren’t nearly so lucrative as they once were.

Last summer, documents prepared for Employment and Social Development Canada said that the Canadian economy could lose between 1.5 million and 7.5 million jobs in the coming years. The Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University, in Toronto, estimated that over the next two decades, more than 40 percent of the Canadian workforce is at high risk of being replaced by automation, computers and technology.

These out of work Canadians will no doubt prompt responses from government, but those now mapping their futures can be more proactive. It turns out there are quite a few jobs for which automation poses a low risk, but they may require Canadians to rethink “men’s work” and “women’s work.”

The Brookfield Institute report says that when it comes to automation, the five lowest risk occupations are, in order, retail and wholesale trade managers, registered nurses, elementary and kindergarten teachers, early childhood educators and secondary school teachers. The five lowest risk occupations are weighted towards what has traditionally been seen as “women’s work.” The Brookfield Institute’s report projected that between 2014 and 2024, low-risk occupations will produce nearly 712,000 new jobs, while high-risk occupations are expected to add only 396,000 new jobs.

Nursing, in particular, is expected to see significant growth as Canada’s population ages. A recent Conference Board of Canada report noted that currently 1.4 million Canadian seniors use continuing care supports. They expect that number will increase by 71 percent by 2026. With this growth, demand for nursing is expected to grow by 3.4 percent annually between 2011 and 2035. Canadian Nurses Association, which co-sponsored the report, said that expected growth in the workforce likely won’t keep up with demand.

According to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, in 2016, 14,000 Manitobans were employed in “professional occupations in nursing,” but only 1,000 (seven percent) of those were men. This number has actually declined since 2012, when just under 13 percent of Manitoba nurses were men. When you look at the 19,600 Manitobans working in “assisting occupations in support of health services,” which includes support positions such as health care aides and orderlies, 2,900 of them, or 15 percent, were men. Similar data for Prairie Mountain Health wasn’t available.

Education is a bit more gender balanced, but still more frequently chosen by women than men. Within the Beautiful Plains School Division, their 269 person staff includes 87 men. When looking at teachers specifically, there are 42 men, 28 of whom teach at the division’s two high schools. Province-wide, the LFS said that in 2016, 37 percent of Manitoba’s teachers, including those at the post-secondary level, were men. Numbers weren’t available for other area school divisions.

These numbers are interesting because while certain professions may be perceived as being more male- or female-oriented when you look at the specific duties associated with the jobs, there’s very little to suggest that a woman, or a man, should be doing them. Over the last 100 years, women have fought to secure their economic futures in male-oriented fields, maybe it’s time to really move beyond “pink” and “blue.”