MONTREAL ― It’s long been known that the decline of high-paying, unionized manufacturing jobs has hurt middle class households, but a new study from Statistics Canada has put some hard numbers to the phenomenon, and found that men took the brunt of the impact.
“As employment in the manufacturing sector fell, proportionately fewer men became employed on a full-year, full-time basis,” Statistics Canada said in the study released Wednesday.
Between 2000 and 2015, as successive waves of layoffs and shutdowns hit Canadian factories, the percentage of men who had been employed full-time for the previous 48 weeks declined by five percentage points, to 58.6 per cent from 63.6 per cent.
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The situation was more extreme in cities where factories saw a larger-than-average decline. For instance, in the industrial cities of southern Ontario ― an area The Economist dubbed “the new rust belt” several years ago ― the full-time employment rate for men declined by about 10 percentage points.
This has meant lower wages for men. Every five percentage point decline in the share of people employed in manufacturing reduced men’s wages by 6.9 per cent, the study found. For less educated men under 35, that wage decline was 8.7 per cent.
Despite this, women continue to make up a smaller share of Canada’s workforce than men, with 65.7 per cent of males aged 15 plus in the workforce at the end of 2019, compared with 58 per cent of females.
And men’s wages, overall, continue to be higher, with 15-plus males earning $31.07 on average in full-time work, compared to $27.78 for women.
But the data suggests the narrowing gap between men and women in the workforce may have as much to do with declines for men as it does with improvements for women.
Between 2000 and 2019, the employment rate for women 15-plus rose by 2.3 percentage points, while declining 1.9 percentage points for men.
That corresponds to an additional 360,000 jobs for women, and 290,000 fewer jobs for men, than would have otherwise existed.
Women impacted in U.S., but not Canada
The link between manufacturing jobs and men may seem clear, given that men dominated traditional factory jobs, but Statistics Canada’s study sets up a mystery: In the U.S., unlike in Canada, the decline of factory jobs impacted women as well.
Studies in the U.S. found very similar results there ― except that, south of the border, women were “similarly affected” as men by manufacturing’s decline, StatCan said. That is to say, women’s wages and employment rates also came down where factory jobs disappeared.
StatCan says the reasons for this are “currently unknown and remain to be determined in subsequent empirical analyses.”