NILS Working Paper no 173. How does occupational sex segregation shape low skilled men's employment opportunities? Evidence from the ABS census
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A major feature of the contemporary Australian labour market is the declining participation of prime-age men, in particular those with low education levels. Using Census data for 1996 and 2006, this paper explores how occupational sex segregation – a concept traditionally used to explain female employment outcomes – has shaped low skilled men’s employment opportunities in Australia. The empirical evidence shows that employment for workers with limited levels of educational attainment has expanded most rapidly in occupations that are female-dominated. Men are not increasing their share of employment in these occupations. This evidence supports the argument that sex segregation in employment opportunities has contributed to men’s withdrawal from the labour force. The paper concludes by discussing the relative usefulness of occupational sex segregation as a theoretical framework for understanding low skilled men’s labour market situation.