Monday, 23 March 2009

Quick hit: Apprenticeships the path to increasing women's pay?

From the NZ Herald this morning:
Encouraging women into trade apprenticeships will help the nation to emerge from the economic downturn in a better position than when it began, says the Minister of Women's Affairs, Pansy Wong.

New Zealand needs to upskill across the board and also break down the gender divisions in the workforce, she says.

While some might argue that males and females naturally lean towards different occupations, Mrs Wong believes they are too often influenced by parents, and friends.

"Girls may want to get into the trades but they don't know anyone doing it."

She wants to see more role models like 20-year-old Shelley Weaver, from Wellington, who will complete her three-year apprentice in plumbing and gas fitting this year.

Click through for the rest.

I've put this up partly in response to the point Psycho Milt has raised in comments here about pay equity; that individual women need to choose better paid professions. When we have a Minister of Women's Affairs who doesn't seem to care about pay equity across the board, perhaps he's right.


Anna said...

Hmmmm - a bit disingenuous. Increasing women's access to the trades is laudable, but the reason trades pay well at the moment is a shortage of skilled workers. An influx of apprentices would change that.

Women need to stop going into low paid jobs? I wonder just how we'll get on when women join men in refusing to do caring and cleaning work?

backin15 said...

Anna, I have a slightly different perspective. Trade jobs pay better than is usually acknowledged. A number of Industry Training Organisations have actively targeted young women, for instance the electrical trades, to boost the numbers engaging.

The 'trade shortage' is a volatile situation and may abate with slowing economic activity but I think there's real merit to developing programs specifically appealing to women to join the trades (I think we agree this even if we don't completely agree the cause/sustainability of wage advantages).

Employers need guidance though, in Australia too many apprentices do not complete because of issues with both employers and training (but also because wages are low during training and some alternative employment pays better). I suspect these issues would be all the more significant with a large increase women in the trades.

Your point about women refusing to do caring work is well made. Again, in Australia - perhaps Sydney - already we're seeing the gender division recast as a ethnic one with migrants taking the jobs Australians, for lack of a better word, don't want.

Anna said...

Fair points. I think that the perceived friendliness of workplaces is a huge factor in attracting female apprentices. (About ten years ago, I questioned why the trades block at the local polytech didn't have a female toilet, and was told that girls don't do trades. We may have an attitudinal problem.)

The ethnic dimension to low paid work is extremely important. I read a really poignant article a while ago about how, in Canada, the ability of many Canadian women to go to work is predicated on getting 3rd world women into their homes to nanny/keep house for a pittance.

backin15 said...

The bloody toilets, they're always blamed for excluding women! Unisex toilets must solve the problem.

But seriously, one of the real upsides to a bouyant economy is that it requires employers to consider their workplaces and indentify the impediments that exclude some groups. There's no good reason why women can't fully engage in trades, only bad reasons!

Mary-Lou said...

And yet the most powerful Socialist states in our history all encouraged women into trades. This is a good step in the right direction and we should all be applauding it.

Julie said...

So Mary-Lou are you saying that NZ under National is becoming a powerful Socialist state? I should point out that the previous Govt was also encouraging women into the trades (and actually set up the apprenticeship scheme after National dismantled it in the 1990s).

Julie said...

And an aside - I cannot understand why we don't have unisex toilets in workplaces anyway.

backin15 said...

Just thought this recent research on how to encourage women into trades might be of interest given this thread: