The size and shape of America's labor force will change by the 1980s as record levels of women will be working and comprise a bigger portion of the labor force, according to a commerce Department economist.
By 1990, 57 percent of all women will be in the labor force, compared to about 50 percent now. Women will account for 45.5 percent of the labor force by 1990 compared to 41 percent now, according to Lucy Falcone, deputy assistant secretary for domestic economic policy coordination.
At the same time the percentage of men working will drop.
"Economists have been notoriously bad in forecasting this revolution, the revolution of women in the labor force," Falcone said in a telephone interview.
Despite assertions that '60s revolutions such as the women's movement, have died, the desire of women to work hasn't. Falcone said the increase is partly due to the erosion of the standard of living, causing more wives to work. The number of wives working increased by 24 percent from 1970 to 1977, according to the Labor Department. The median income of two wage-earner families was $20,415 in 1977 compared to $13,218 for one-earner families, government statistics show.
Falcone also said that women "see more uncertain and shifting relations in society. A woman doesn't see a man as her sole support anymore." She added that many women who do marry now consider honing skills for the work force so that they can support themselves if in the future they have to.
Falcone's predictions, if accurate, could result in more overall economic growth "than others might think because there are more resources."
It also opens up increased opportunities for the expansion of day care centers, financial management and household jobs, Falcone said. More double-wage-earning families will need financial managers and household managers as will many single women with children, Falcone said. "The tip of the iceberg is banks that will pay bills for you," she said.
Beyond the prediction that more women will be in the work force, Falcone said, more jobs will be available to them as the population shifts. In the late 1980s there there will be more jobs than people to fill them, she said. Census data shows a slowdown in the population growth, particularly at the age for job market entry levels, making employment easier for women.
But, Falcone added, because of discrimination it is not known how many of the new jobs for women will be managerial.
Falcone based her predictions on projections of increased employment in the service and wholesale and retail sectors, areas where women are heavily concentrated now, she said.
Partly because of many men taking advantage of early retirement plans, Falcone said that the percentage of men in the labor force will drop from 77.7 percent now to 76.4 percent in 1990. It was 80 percent in 1970, Falcone said.