A lesson in productivity

The obvious economic consequences of this labor trend appear to escape this NYT writer:

With the recession on the brink of becoming the longest in the postwar era, a milestone may be at hand: Women are poised to surpass men on the nation’s payrolls, taking the majority for the first time in American history. The reason has less to do with gender equality than with where the ax is falling.

The proportion of women who are working has changed very little since the recession started. But a full 82 percent of the job losses have befallen men, who are heavily represented in distressed industries like manufacturing and construction. Women tend to be employed in areas like education and health care, which are less sensitive to economic ups and downs, and in jobs that allow more time for child care and other domestic work.

Here’s another interesting fact. Those disappearing male jobs in manufacturing and construction tend to produce wealth. Jobs in education and health care are less sensitive to economic ups and downs for the simple reason that they are de facto government jobs, which produce no wealth. If you get sick and I work very hard to get you back on your feet, nothing new has been produced. We’re just back at the status quo we were at before you fell ill. Health care is a great thing, but it is a net wealth consumer, not a wealth producer, as the budget of California should suffice to show. And the panoply of Womyn’s Studies and Art History majors, to say nothing of the high school graduates who can’t pass a simple history exam, demonstrate the worthlessness of most modern American education.

But the trend does suggest a plausible answer to the question that John Derbyshire once posed. What follows in the sequence Farm – Factory – Office? Hunter-gatherer! The economic model of women engaged in economically non-productive labor while men sit around and do nothing is not exactly a new one. I believe it’s quite popular in Africa, as a matter of fact.