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When Women are Half the Workforce ...

...What does that mean? Answering that question is the cover story of the Economist this week.


The magazine has a great collection of essays and articles. Most of the commentary is focused exactly where it should be -- on accommodating women in the workforce with improved childcare, maternity leave, etc. As for their explanation of this development:

The feminisation of the workforce has been driven by the relentless rise of the service sector (where women can compete as well as men) and the equally relentless decline of manufacturing (where they could not).

True enough. In the United States, as many as 80 percent of the firings have affected men. Where I think the writers are being naive, however, is their assertion that these dramatic changes have taken place with little turbulence. True, the loggers in Maine don't blame women for their plight; nor do the auto workers. Is that the end of the story? For the Economist writers, it is.

I'm not so sure. With women earning nearly 58 percent of bachelor's degrees and 62 percent of associate's degress, this is not a matter of women pulling even. This is a matter of men not getting the message of what's needed to compete in today's economy. And there's a price to be paid for that in social relationships. Drop in on some of those logger families where the sole supporters are now women working in relatively low wage jobs. Chances are, what you'll hear in many of those families amounts to a lot of anxiety, confusion and tension. (And while you're there, ask them how their sons are faring in local schools, compared to their daughters.)

Something revolutionary, and possibly socially unhealthy, is unfolding here that some would prefer to ignore. Raise your hand if you think men, who rule the White House and Wall Street, are a group to worry about! No hands...exactly my point. Now drop in on the Chicago and Boston schools and take a quick survey of who's graduating from high school, who's headed to college and who actually graduates from college after enrolling. I can give you a quickie answer: it's women. Still think this is not worrisome?

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