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Who faces greater exposure to automation? A look at gender.

Find out which workers by sex are overrepresented in automation exposed industries.

Author: Neil Harrington

Previous articles in this series looked at the North Carolina labor market’s exposure to automation related employment disruptions at the occupation and industry level. This article builds on that work by examining the demographic composition of workers in the most exposed industries, specifically by gender. Demographic groups that are overrepresented in exposed industries reflect the subsectors’ high share of these workers and their current education or skills levels. Many of the occupations and industries that face the most exposure to automation have more jobs typically requiring lower levels of educational attainment or formal skills training. This trend generally holds among the demographic groups most overrepresented in exposed industries. Without proper guardrails in place such as robust worker training systems and industry supports, automation could disproportionately impact certain segments of the population, many of which are already vulnerable in the current economy.

More men work in automation-exposed industries than women

Males make up nearly 60 percent of employment in exposed industry subgroups, about nine percentage points more than their share of total employment in North Carolina. Women’s total employment, on the other hand, is about nine percentage points higher than their share of exposed industry employment. Societal norms around who does physical, labor-intensive work at least partially explains the overrepresentation of men in exposed industries. For example, most manufacturing outfits feature physical, labor-intensive work, which, historically, many people have thought of only men being capable of. Resultingly, males’ share of total employment in manufacturing has not dipped below 60 percent since 1997 and was well above 50 percent before that.

Research shows labor force nonparticipation among prime working age men has been increasing for decades, due in part to previous waves of automation, job polarization, and decreased demand for “middle-skilled” labor. As new technologies continue to increase productivity in workplaces and disrupt labor markets, automation could further disrupt men’s labor market participation, making these trends worse.

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