Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Is A Man-cession?

What do you do for a living? What do you do for a life?

Two separate questions? Maybe.

Let’s take the first one first. And the larger view for a moment.

Economists in the United States are claiming that the US is recovering from what is now being called The Great Recession. If slightly hopeful, what labor and employment statistics chronically leave out for –ahem, political reasons? —is that the people who have given up looking for employment, and they are many, are simply dropped from the statistics. That means the following numbers should but don’t take the full picture of employment realities into consideration. In other words the real unemployment percentages are higher. Traveling in the UK and Australia in the last few years, I know some of what I will share here applies in other modern economies though numbers vary.

Women are said to have regained all the jobs they lost a few years ago but men are still 2.1 million jobs short in this third quarter of 2013. That roughly translates to 6.8% unemployment for women and 7.7% for men.
Economists have long known that the recession (officially declared over way back in June 2009), hit men the hardest and some have dubbed that a “man-cession,” occurring alongside a “she-covery.”

Why the gender gap?

There is a good deal of segregation in the job market with women and men working in different industries and even in different areas of the same industry.
Lower wage industries, like retail, education, restaurants and hotels have been hiring the fastest with women predominating in those areas. Construction and manufacturing, sectors dominated by men, have yet to recover. With increasing automation and erosion of unions, some of those better paying jobs will never be recovered.

In health services and education where job growth has been greatest there are some good-paying jobs such as nurses and physical therapists, however, most are low paid jobs such as home health care aid. Of the 1.6 million jobs created in the U.S. since 2009, women hold 1.1 million of them.

Even with this kind of job growth there is still a steady drop in overall family income. And much has been said but little done to address the runaway income gap between high paid executives and those lower down the food chain, just one piece of the growing inequity undermining the middle class created after WWII by the now rapidly departing “Greatest Generation.”

Anecdotally, I’ve heard the words "downsizing" and "right sizing" and "lay off" and now "furlough" more times than I can count. I wonder if the statistician job sector has grown fast enough to keep track?
This year’s Gallup Poll study told us that 7 out 10 people are not happy or passionately engaged with the work they do.

In my field of life coaching and organizational consulting, I hear the stories behind the statistics. Those who are in transition have become the norm and those still on board with shrinking companies, government agencies and non-profits—all three sectors—are being asked to do more with less.

What to do? Probably lots of things, all requiring that sticky wicket called “political will.”
Let’s assume for a moment that the American people decided that these are unacceptable ways to live in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. There would probably be some agreement about reducing CEO salaries, creating a taxation system that restored what created the middle class in the first place, providing even more incentives for entrepreneurs and small business, which employs the majority of people.

One thing I’ve not heard much about lately is the unoriginal concept of the four-day workweek, though government furloughs are creating zero day weeks at the moment. A four-day workweek and job-sharing that would bring more people into or back into the workforce. With a fairer distribution of compensation pegged to the real cost of living, could we get the work done by more people but fewer hours per person? In other words, fulfill the old promise of more leisure, more civic involvement and more family time for both men and women; what I consider the real hallmark of a modern affluent society.

Now we are entering the realm of the second question: What do you do for a life?

Twenty years ago I was editing a book about what working parents wanted most out of their work life. Right after fair compensation it was flextime. In other words, people wanted to have more control over their work life, so that other pursuits and passions could be experienced and balance out their picture of the good life. Things like being engaged parents, more active in their kids’ schools, neighborhoods, communities, civic organizations or personal projects-- and not having to wait until retirement to have that whole life.

I’ve found this desire for a more balanced life to be widespread when I take individuals through the Passion Test to arrive at their top five passions or what is most important to them. Some men are passionate about providing for their families, but not at the expense of having less time to spend with their partners and children. Traditionally, many men have equated success with big salaries. That’s changed. Women want and need more time for themselves as they are taking care of everyone else, on top of being employed, (and often underpaid).

As men and women, from young adulthood to senior status, we may not be able to restructure our work lives over night, but one thing is clear, the first step is identifying what would be ideal for us before we can begin to actively pursue it for ourselves and our families in today’s dynamic and ever changing work world.

Randy Crutcher administers The Passion Test, now used in 49 countries to help people get clear about and live their passions. There is also a Passion Test for helping people get clear about what would be ideal for them in their work life, an invaluable tool when seeking employment or creating a new enterprise. Call him at 209 923-0502 to inquire.

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