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Women take labor force force lead in NP

The 2011 Labor Force Survey reveals a shift in workforce demographics, with women now outnumbering men in the country’s largest employment market.

“Of particular interest is the fact that in New Providence, for the first time, the number of females in the labor force exceeded that of males, accounting for 51 percent of the total,” Department of Statistics (DOS) Director Kelsie Dorsett said in a press conference on Friday.

Much of the growth of the labor force, at 190,075 for the April 25 through May 1, 2011 reference period, was accounted for by women, who added 78 percent of the 6,055 person growth.  That contribution to the expansion of the labor force was also up 5.3 percent, compared to 1.4 percent for men – meaning the proportion of the growth women accounted for may be trending upward.

Women also took the lead in growing the employed labor force, with a 5.6 percent growth compared to the 2.4 percent increase posted by men.

“But many of the male-dominated industries took the hardest hits in employment during the economic downturn, and the factors leading to the greater employment levels women are experiencing may not hold once a recovery has taken place…  industries which tend to be dominated by males, such as construction, experienced a decline of 17.5 percent,” Dorsett said on Friday.

Seventy percent of the growth in the employed labor force came from the ‘informal’ sector, according to the DOS.  Typified by small retail operations like phone card vending and mobile jewelry sales, the sector ballooned by 4,410 persons to about 18,190 based on the 32 percent growth rate the DOS cited.  For whatever reason, women may have enjoyed more success in finding quick ways to make a buck than men did.

“Employment in the informal sector seemed more accessible for women as their numbers increased by 65 percent compared to a much lower increase, 20 percent, experienced by their male counterparts,” according to the release.

Informal sector employment is generally not regulated, and its workers usually have no contracts, minimal job security, no fixed hours, no fixed location and no unemployment benefits—including maternity or sick pay.

The DOS is saying the turn to self-employment, formal or not, is typical in times of economic stress.

“This state of affairs is not unique to The Bahamas and happens worldwide, particularly in developing countries – a downturn in the economy gives rise to an increase in employment in the informal sector,” Dorsett said.

“Likewise, during difficult economic times, self employment [in the formal or informal sector] tends to increase and this is borne out in the data which shows that sector grew faster [10.3 percent] than any other sector, particularly private enterprises which had an increase of less than 1 percent.  In New Providence self-employment grew by 3.1 percent whereas the increase in Grand Bahama was substantially higher at 16.9%.”

Across The Bahamas, men hold the slightest edge in the employed labor force. Survey results reveal that 50.1 percent of the labor force are men, compared to 49.9 percent who are women.

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