Gender Issues for Working and Learning Essay

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Human Resources

Gender Issues for Working and Learning

Why are gender and difference issues so important in understanding the potential for skills training and work and learning in both Canada and the economic south?

One of the most significant changes in the labor forces of countries like Australia and the U.S.A. And those of Western Europe has been their increasing feminization in the last decades of this century. Well over half of the adult women in most member countries of the OECD are now in the paid workforce. In some countries their participation rate is almost equal with that of men, particularly under those welfare state regimes with an explicit commitment to promoting equality between the sexes. There are several factors which have played a role in this feminization of the workforce. On the demand side, there has been the rapid expansion of a range of service industries relying heavily on women workers, such as the retail industry, and community and health services. On the supply side, there have been the rapidly rising levels of education among women within the OECD countries, together with the widespread cultural changes occurring in the wake of the women's movement (Probert, 1999).

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The feminization of the labor force has been accompanied by almost continuous debate about the significance of gender in structuring men's and women's experience of work and the tenacity of sex segregated labor markets. Attention has focused on the one hand on the phenomenon of horizontal segregation, where women remain concentrated in the lower levels of an occupational career structure such as medicine, law or higher education despite equal participation rates in relevant educational courses and entry level credentials. On the other hand, there is persistent horizontal segregation with many occupations remaining strongly female often with men in the highest positions or males, such as nursing, primary teaching and most trades (Probert, 1999).

Essay on Gender Issues for Working and Learning Assignment

Women remain, even at the start of the new millennium, at a disadvantage in their effort to gain a strong attachment to the labor market. Their participation rate at 58.1% in 1998 remains significantly below that of men, which stands at 72.4%. They represent only 39.4% of full time, full year workers, and almost half of employed women are part of the nonstandard labor market. Women's incomes are only 61% of men's and 50% of women had after tax incomes ranging from zero to $13,786. Thirty five percent of women have less than a high school education and even with a university education, their incomes were only 70% of those of men. Women also represent the vast majority of persons in nonstandard employment (Critoph, 2003)

Women face multiple systemic barriers to labor market participation and achievement. These include attitudinal barriers and limited access to childcare. Women also bear the majority of responsibility for family care of children and the elderly. Women in single parent families are the worst off (Critoph, 2003)

Women also continue to experience labor market segregation. In spite of efforts to combat systemic gendered and racial segregation, more than 70% of women continue to be concentrated in a few female dominated sectors relation to traditional social roles: clerical or other administrative positions, sales and service occupation, nursing and related health occupations and teaching. Low paying, part time and contingent forms of employment dominate these occupations. Increasingly, even the fields of nursing and education, two of the best paid and most highly unionized forms of employment for women, are being turned into contingent, part time, and home-based or self-employed forms of employment (Critoph, 2003)

Similarly, women face unique challenges in their efforts to pursue education and training in order to ameliorate these labor market disadvantages. Women get fewer hours of training; the face more barriers; and what they do get goes primarily to those already at the top. Furthermore, they and their families often have to pay for job related training themselves.

Women's needs with regard to labor market programming and services include:

Income support to carry them during periods of unemployment

Good quality, accessible training

Programs of longer duration

More integrated programs, like programs that combine the various support needs into one seamless approach

Assistance to determine their needs and training, like counseling, labor market information and case management

Support to deal with life issues such as violence, low self-esteem and discrimination

Extra supports to aid them in gaining access to nontraditional occupations along with the training that leads to them

Safe and confidential environments within which to receive services

Additional support for childcare and transportation costs

Programs that ignore the interrelationship of these needs may bring about short-term results but do little to address the systemic disadvantages of women in the labor market (Critoph, 2003).

In Canada the Essential Skills Initiative was launched in April 2003 by the federal government for the stated purpose of creating a more productive workforce and attracting and retaining the highly qualified people required to fuel Canada's innovation performance because it helps to ensure Canadians have the right skills for changing work and life demands. Nine skill regions have been declared essential in all work. This includes such things as document use, numeracy, working with people and thinking skills. All professions, not just those that are entry-level or low skilled, are now in the process of being profiled in order to determine the precise mix of these essential skills that are required (Fenwick, 2006).

With this idea Canada joins a policy direction that has long-established in the UK, Europe, and Australia. There is nothing new in OECD countries about a federally-driven individualistic skills-based conceptualization of working knowledge and its prescriptive training strategies. What is surprising is how quickly and comprehensively such an agenda can be unleashed in the face of decades of critique of generic, de-contextualized notions of skills that are to be acquired by individuals. Critics showing the gendered, fragmented and ultimately pointless focus on developing an individual's skills are common in Canada. Skill is an misapprehension that goes according to the prevailing knowledge politics and observer bias identifying bits of performance spied among joint action, and marking it as some capability possessed by this or that person immersed in the communal flow. Many Canadian writers have pointed out this problem of de-contextualizing and individualizing work knowledge that is far more embedded in joint activity and cultural discourses than skill notions acknowledge, and the politics of assigning the assessment and thus control of work knowledge to those other than the workers (Fenwick, 2006).

Workers' behavior is under surveillance, and their knowledge associated to their visible performance. The theorization of learning and knowledge upon which skill discussion rest is simplistic at best and biased at worst. Entrenched in human capital theory, it is greedy, presuming that people are singular coherent beings ingesting rather than socially building knowledge and skills, in a developmental progression to become resources. Not only does such theory ignore issues of collective learning, politics of knowledge and language in learning, it also neglects both social capital, such as strong social networks, shared values and high trust and cultural capital like immersion in the images, language, possessions and values of the dominant, usually middle-class, White urban culture that is associated with the innovative, text based and design-oriented knowledge of the knowledge economy. Groups lacking this social and cultural capital, and groups who develop and value very different knowledge rooted in, say, non- Western, non-technological, non-acquisitive perspectives are further marginalized by being disconnected from knowledge generation work and subjected to skill reproduction. Human capital theory does not address this resulting division in recognition, opportunity, wealth (Fenwick, 2006).

A key element of a woman's success in re-entering or remaining in the labor force is the ability to seek out and find the information she needs to make a good decision. Among the supports that she needs are counseling and labor market information on employment opportunities, career choices, learning options, and financial and other resources available (Critoph, 2003).

One of the most challenging elements of any form of labor market work involves finding good information that will enable one to predict what types of work will be available where. Governments, labor market specialists, education providers and employers have all been daunted by this task. One need only look at the multitude of skill mismatches in the economy today to see just how unsuccessful their efforts have been. And yet, in the new world of training and employment programs, individuals are being sent out with little, if any, support to determine their best options for future employment. IT is hard to see, given the sorts of information one is likely to be able to locate on one's own, how one woman can be expected to accomplish this task. And yet this is exactly what is now expected (Critoph, 2003).

Information referral services, which are the starting point for many individuals, particularly for women, are offered in a sporadic, inconsistent, confusing and often incomplete manner. All too frequently services are offered on a group basis in the form of job finding clubs and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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