Jobs: the gender difference
Social Climate

Jobs: the gender difference

/ 04:10 AM March 16, 2024

I first appreciated the economic difference between men and women in the 1960s, when my department chair mentioned, privately, that he was hesitating to recommend one of my fellow instructors, a woman, for a doctoral scholarship abroad. But she’s very capable, I said.

“It’s not personal, it’s social,” he said. “Suppose she gets married? Suppose her new husband doesn’t let her return to her job here? Suppose she marries a foreigner?” “Then couldn’t she pay back the scholarship?” “We’re not a bank; we’re a school. Our aim is to develop the faculty.”

(Incidentally, the chair had been on scholarship abroad himself, while single, some years back; there he married a foreigner, and he brought his wife back to the University of the Philippines to raise their family. I know other cases of faculty who returned from studies with a foreign wife, and only one brought home a foreign husband.)

There is always much more joblessness among women than among men. Social Weather Stations (SWS) has tracked joblessness in its quarterly national surveys of adults since 1993. Male joblessness has never matched female joblessness.


The entire data series is in “Joblessness rises to 19.5% in December 2023 from 16.9% in September 2023” (, 3/6/24), subtitled “Joblessness rises among women.” (The jobless are those “walang trabaho” plus “naghahanap ng trabaho”; the denominator is the labor force, adding up the jobless and those with jobs. Those without jobs but not looking for them are not counted in the labor force. The word “trabaho” means whatever survey respondents understand by it.)

For the four quarters of 2023, average joblessness was 19.6 percent, made up of 26 percent among women and 15 percent among men; that’s good enough to match pre-pandemic times— the 2019 average was 30 percent among women and 12 percent among men.

Then the pandemic struck in 2020; that year the percentage jobless averaged 47 for women and 29 for men. For women it dropped to 33 in 2021 and 30 in 2022; for men it fell to 21 in 2021 and 16 in 2022.

A secondary demographic of joblessness is age: the youth must wait their turn. The average quarterly jobless rate in 2023 was 44 percent among those ages 18-24, 23 percent among those 25-34, 17 percent among those 35-44, and 15 percent among those 45 and over. Consequently, younger women tend to be more jobless than older women.


Motherhood and family matter. Job-holding depends on both supply and demand. Having a job and caring for children are both important. They are not incompatible but are competing activities. Here are some attitudes of Filipinos—men and women have similar views—concerning mothers at work, based on the 2012 SWS national survey on Family and Changing Gender Roles for the International Social Survey Programme (

Survey probe 1: “A working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work.” 71 percent agree, 15 percent disagree. Survey probe 2: “Both the man and the woman should contribute to the household income.” 92 percent agree, 3 percent disagree.


Survey probe 3: “A job is all right, but what most women really want is a home and children.” 66 percent agree, 18 percent disagree.

Survey probe 4: “A man’s job is to earn money; a woman’s job is to look after the home and family.” 80 percent agree, 12 percent disagree. Probe 4 is my favorite. What I did not expect is that the agreement by Filipinos is the highest of all the 42 countries included in this international survey (India 55, Mexico 49, South Africa 47, China 45, Taiwan 41, South Korea 38, Japan 24, United States 22; there are no others in Asia). This probe was in eight SWS national surveys in 1991-2021; the agreement has been steady over time, at no less than 74 percent.

Survey probe 5: “Should a woman work outside the home full-time (FT), part-time (PT), or stay home (SH) when there is a child under school age?” Answers: FT 9 percent, PT 34 percent, SH 53 percent.

Survey probe 6: “Should a woman work outside the home full-time (FT), part-time (PT), or stay home (SH) after the youngest child starts school?” Percentages: FT 27, PT 44, SH 24. Naturally, as the children grow older, Filipino mothers become more available for jobs. And their husbands agree with them.

The gender difference in job-holding is simply due to the difference in gender. Vive la difference!

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TAGS: gender, gender gap, jobs

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