Why women have dominated jobs growth

By Gareth Aird, Senior Economist at CBA:

Key Points:

  • Employment growth has been much stronger for females than for males over the past year.
  • Strong growth in the services sector, particularly health, is behind the big lift in female employment.
  • The rise in female employment has been accompanied by a lift in participation.
  • There are structural and cyclical forces at work behind the lift in female employment.


The labour force data can be sliced up and analysed in a number of ways. It is common to cut it up by industry, region or employment type. More recently we had a look at it from a public/private sector perspective. In this short note, we take a different approach and observe the data from a male/female split. The results are interesting. Employment growth has been materially stronger for females relative to males since 2011. And female participation has been rising at a phenomenal rate. As a result, females now make up 47% of workers and men 53%. By comparison, back in 1980, women made up 36% of workers and men 64%. Clearly, there are both structural and cyclical forces in play. Here, we explore a few of the more recent trends.

Latest trends in the data

One of the positive features of the Australian economy since late-2016 has been very strong growth in jobs. The rate of job creation has eased a little over the past three months. But the broader picture has been one of strength. Employment growth was 2.7%pa in April 2018, having averaged a pace of 3.3%pa over the prior six months. This is significantly stronger than population growth (1.6%pa). And it means that the total number of people in paid employment has risen by 332k over the year. What has flown under the radar, however, is the composition of that employment growth when looking at the split between men and women.

Over the year to April 2018, employment growth for males was 1.8%. But for females it was more than twice that at 3.9% (chart 1). Put another way, of the 332k rise in total jobs over the year to April 2018, the number of men in paid employment rose by 114k while for women it was 218k.

We can drill down further to look at the male and female split by employment type (i.e. the full-time/part-time split). The trend data, which smooths out the monthly volatility, shows that growth in full time jobs for females has been remarkable over the past year at 4.7%pa (chart 2). Over the same period, growth in the number of males in full-time employment was 2.2%.

Despite the large divergence between the rates of growth in jobs for males and females, movements in the unemployment rate for both groups have been more consistent. Over the year to April 2018, the trend unemployment rate for males fell by 0.1ppt to 5.5% while it fell 0.3ppts for women to 5.6%.

Changes in the participation rates of men and women reconciles the disparity between the magnitudes of growth in employment against movements in the unemployment rate. The overall participation rate has risen by 0.6ppts to a record high of 65.6% over the past year. The lift has been driven by female participation. In trend terms, the participation rate for women has risen by 1.1ppts over the past year to a record high of 60.7%. For men, it’s lifted by 0.3ppts to 70.8% (chart 4).

Why such strong growth in employment for females?

The starting point to better understand why female employment growth has been so strong is to look at the change in headcount on an industry basis. Chart 5 shows the details. And chart 6 shows the overall share of female employment in each sector.

In the year to February 2018 (latest available), the health sector put on the biggest lift in headcount (+154k). Within that, female employment rose by 148k while it rose for males by just 6k. This big rise in headcount in the health sector has been an ongoing trend due to the ageing of the population. But it has been amplified more recently by the NDIS. The construction sector was in second place on the job creation list reflecting the record levels of residential construction and the infrastructure boom (+89k). Males accounted for 77k of the increase while female employment rose by 12k. Unsurprisingly, this is a sector that has a big proportion of men employed. The retail sector, almost in equal second spot, had roughly an even split in the lift in headcount of men and women over the past year. The education sector rounded out the top four with women accounting for 57% of the lift in jobs. We could go on, but as the data is granular, there can be a lot of volatility in the employment data by industry, particularly when split by gender. So without getting too bogged down on the detail, there a few key points to note.

First, women have an above average share of representation in the sectors that are currently putting on headcount at the fastest rate. Health, education and retail all have a higher proportion of females in employment than men. As such, when these sectors are growing faster than the average of all industries, growth in employment of females is likely to be stronger than males.

Second, the lift in demand for workers, particularly in the services sector, has been accompanied by a rise in supply. This has meant that female participation in the workforce has been growing at a faster rate than male participation. This doesn’t necessarily explain why two thirds of the jobs created over the past year have been filled by females. But it does explain why the growth rates in employment have been stronger for women relative to men.

Third, in many industries, there has been a conscious attempt by employers to lift the female share of their workforce. This both encourages female participation while also increases the likelihood that female employment growth rises relative to men. We suspect that female participation and employment has also risen because real wages growth is flat. Many of the prices of essential goods and services that households must consume, like electricity, fuel, health and education, have been increasing a lot faster than wages. In addition, dwelling price growth has far outstripped income growth for a long period of time. This means that for many households, two incomes are now necessary. As the chart below shows, female participation tends to rise as housing affordability worsens. Of course there is a circularity there because an increase in the proportion of two-income households puts upward pressure on dwelling prices. But it’s only one small factor and a story for another day!


    • My recent tour of Westmead Hospital tells me something different. It’s fat people, smokers, and unhealthy third-world migrants clogging up the joint, and babies are being wheeled out like Henry Ford is overseeing production.

      Everyone should go for a tour and see for yourself our busiest hospital in action.

      Don’t touch anything. A mask is probably a good idea. I can’t believe people would choose to have their babies in such a disgusting place.

    • bskerr2MEMBER

      When you have such a strong backlash going on in every part of life with the whole woman vs men and saying woman should get jobs because they are woman it doesn’t surprise many.

      • As opposed to western history up until the late 20th century when men got jobs just because they were men…. Maybe hold off whinging until your gender is at less than 50% from a participation AND wage perspective. But on a serious note, how sh*t are women…. They’re lazy because they don’t pull their weight and participate, but sometimes they participate too much and they come for our jobs, them and the immigrants…. I mean only the low paying jobs but still, and sometimes they whinge too much about stupid things that don’t affect us like tampons, but sometimes they don’t whinge enough and are compliant slaves who work too hard and that also takes jobs away from us poor white aussy blokes who work so hard that we spend our days slagging off the entire female gender on economics blogs. But the women I hate the most are those angry bitter feminists, more like misandrists, because how dare they hate men and be so bitter towards an entire gender #notallmen #reversesexism

  1. In order to keep job growth, we must have a strong economy. Export plays a major part of this.

    In trying to keep a strong export, we must keep our AUD currency a reasonably low as possible to fight against international competition.

    Our export industry is facing crisis right now as China has agreed to start buying coal as well as other minerals from USA to minimize the trade imbalance.

  2. reusachtigeMEMBER

    The main reason women have dominated wage growth is because they are, more often than not, hotter than men. It’s just nature. Although I would potentially hire and promote a good looking metrosexual over a woman but he would have to be real fine.

    • J BauerMEMBER

      Us men aren’t just pieces of meat, we have feelings, hopes and dream too you know!

    • Nonsense.
      Women are being hired because generally speaking, they are more agreeable than men and are far less likely to rock the boat in the workplace, to question poor workplace culture and demand better conditions/pay.
      A case of more compliant, unquestioning slaves, who in my experience typically take more sick leave than men and play the helpless victim card whenever it suits them while the blokes pick up the slack.
      Its no wonder that productivity is on a downwards trend.

  3. “Conscious attempt to increase female employment” = virtue signalling = brand enhancement

  4. The cost of Housing (all time highs), electricity (all time highs), fuel (highest since 2015), health (all time highs) and education (all time highs) have all gone up dramatically in recent years. Yet the data still says there’s no inflation??

    • Housing is excluded from inflation stats. How convenient.

      Private school fees increase at a crazy pace. Government funding should be taken away from private schools for raising fees like crazy.

      • It’s not only housing. The RBA has other tricks they use to skew the data, too. 10 years ago, the iPhone 3GS cost $999. You can now buy an equivalent (now very very low end) Android phone for $50. Accordingly the RBA says mobile phone prices have deflated by 50% every year for the last 10 years.

  5. A gender quota assists them in Google, Atlassian, AUS Army, etc. and discrimination against men assists them when it comes to jobs such as primary school teacher, aged care worker, receptionist. Bizarrely, they even get to work in fashion shops that only sell male apparel (Tarocash).

    Atlassian’s Global Head of Diversity Inclusion

    Looks like Atlassian’s receptionist is female:



    Along with its HR recruiter:

    Caitriona Staunton, head of recruiting – APAC at Atlassian.

    Unidirectional “diversity”.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Dude, they’re all chicks jobs. The hotter the better. What’s your point? How about you stop whinging and go get a job yourself. Maybe in a complaints call centre or something.

      • reusachtigeMEMBER

        ^^ Well no one actually wants to hear someone’s whiny complaint so you outsource complaints to a specialised call centre that has whingers employed who will sympathise with the whinger for a period of time then complain about the complaints made by the whinger to their own team of whingers meaning the negative energy remains centred. As it is all outsourced you actually don’t care and continue to make profits without such burdens. Just a cost of doing business. It’s a job made for Jacob.

      • Yep, spot on Reusa though Jacob can’t get a job in a call centre anymore coz they’ve outsourced them to poor countries that speak some English. He’ll have to settle for hospitality now.

      • MediocritasMEMBER

        @reusa, software is about to replace all call-centre workers around the world. Look up “Google Duplex”. An AI agent can spin up on demand to handle a complaint, speak all the right, algorithmically-optimised, soothing words, then wink out of existence when the call ends. Maybe the transcript can be archived into a cloud database somewhere, but even less of a shit will be given (net) than your wildest dreams could imagine. Progress bud, progress.

        Also, I really like that hot chicks work at Tarocash. The last person I want to flirt with and ask for advice on how to look my best is some fat neckbeard who lives with his mum!

      • Hopefully, in the interests of diversity and fighting privilege, they can root out the white dudes and make the world a better place.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        If they think that’ll make their company more competitive and profitable, what’s the problem ?

    • And Atlassian is one of the biggest importers of cheap programming labour from Vietnam on 457s and now 482 visas.

      They don’t want to employ more expensive local grads with HECS debt to pay off.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        And Atlassian is one of the biggest importers of cheap programming labour from Vietnam on 457s and now 482 visas.

        How do you figure that ? The whole company is only a couple of thousand people worldwide.

        They don’t want to employ more expensive local grads with HECS debt to pay off.

        No, of course not. That’s why they have a program dedicated to working with local Universities to hire graduates.

      • HECS debt is not really an issue – unless the braindead Greens have agreed to lower the repayment threshold to $45k.

        It is curious how Atlassian imports staff from low wage nations: Russia, Brazil, Vietnam, etc. instead of Auckland.

  6. Our place has posters in the john offering $1000 dollars for every female referral hired. There’s a picture of a male head and a female head, and they’re facing different directions but as if the woman’s brain has eaten out part of the man’s. Our place is crawling with very loud and obnoxious diversity officers. I’ll save them the trouble – if they can find a woman who is willing and able to do my job she can just farking have it. Otherwise, I don’t really want to farking hear about diversity and how it “drives innovation and financial performance through diverse perspectives and representations”.

    • “There’s a picture of a male head and a female head, and they’re facing different directions but as if the woman’s brain has eaten out part of the man’s.”


  7. drsmithyMEMBER

    That participation rates graph is horrendous. Did you do it yourself or is that something the ABS publishes ?

    • was just about to comment the same thing, this site is notorious for manipulating graphs by putting things that belong on the same axis on left and right axes, but I sometimes don’t know if they created the graphs themselves or got them from elsewhere.