|Abstract: ||Traditionally discourse around women and labour market has been concerned with women’s opportunities (or lack thereof) in the workplace vis a vis their male counterparts. While this is still a concern, current trends demonstrate that women are increasingly accessing postsecondary education (PSE), obtaining managerial positions, and otherwise performing better than men in many ways. Simultaneously, men are becoming less likely to access PSE and in some cases are struggling to find work in a post-industrial society that favours human capital, desk jobs, and soft skills like communication and interpersonal intelligence. Jobs involving physical
labour are in decline in Canada (e.g., manufacturing sector) and some are asking whether or not women may be better suited to this new reality.
This paper will examine trends in women and men’s education and labour market
participation to understand the potential implications of these trends for gender roles. It will also provide an overview of the literature surrounding women in PSE and the labour force in order to contextualize the discussion and to demonstrate the complexity of women’s labour market choices. Following this, it will describe three hypothetical scenarios that could arise out of current trends and that are consistent with the literature. The first scenario is the status quo, which would involve a stable equilibrium in which changes in women’s PSE attendance would not have significant impacts on gender roles or the labour market. The second scenario is a successful adjustment of gender roles, where women would increasingly be the main breadwinners and men would increasingly be involved in household production. The final
scenario involves an unsuccessful adjustment of gender roles where women would continue to
struggle to achieve in the labour market and men would resist taking on work traditionally
belonging to women, such as clerical work or home production. The scenarios speculate that
current trends could lead to significant social problems.
While the three scenarios are meant to be somewhat stark and overstated, they suggest
that gender roles be an important policy consideration amidst changes in in PSE attendance and labour market participation. Understanding current trends and understanding how they impact men and women differently is an opportunity that could ultimately allow for more equality, and that may enable men and women to achieve their full potential – both in the home and in the labour market.|