(Washington, D.C.)  According to a new analysis released today by the National Women’s Law Center, 60 percent of women’s job gains in the recovery are in low-wage occupations. For men, the figure is 20 percent.

“The economy is adding jobs—but the bad news for women is that six out of every ten jobs they’ve gained in this recovery are low-wage,” said Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security at the National Women’s Law Center.  “It’s virtually impossible for a woman to support herself, much less a family, on these wages.”

NWLC’s analysis reveals these key facts:

  • Sixty percent of the total net increase in employment for women between 2009, the first year of the recovery, and 2012 came in the 10 largest low-wage jobs (defined in this analysis as those with median hourly wages of less than $10.10 per hour). This represents disproportionate growth in low-wage jobs, since these jobs employed less than 15 percent of all working women in 2009.
  • Twenty percent of men’s total net increase in employment between 2009 and 2012 came in these 10 low-wage occupations, though these jobs employed less than four percent of all working men in 2009.
  • The 10 largest low-wage occupations and the percentage of women in each occupation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are: childcare workers (94%); maids and housekeepers (88%); home health aides (88%); personal care aides (85%); cashiers (72%); waiters and waitresses (71%); combined food preparers and servers (65%); bartenders (60%); food preparation workers (58%); and hand packers and packagers (53%).  There are various possible definitions of “low-wage;” $10.10 per hour is the amount to which the federal minimum wage would rise under The Fair Minimum Wage Act.


Increase in Annual Average Employment over the Recovery (2009-2012)


10 Largest Low-Wage Occupations

All Occupations

Share of Overall Increase from Low-Wage Occupations













Source: BLS Current Population Survey, Annual Averages.          www.nwlc.org


  • Women, especially women of color, are disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs. Women are over three-quarters of the workforce in the 10 largest low-wage occupations, but just under half of the total workforce. Women of color are over one-third of the workforce in the ten largest low-wage jobs, but comprise less than one-sixth of the total workforce.

“These sobering statistics should compel lawmakers to implement an agenda that improves economic security for women and their families,” Entmacher added.  “Lawmakers need to focus on creating jobs that allow workers to support their families – and end the brutal cuts to public services that have cost women hundreds of thousands of better-paid public sector jobs since the start of the recovery.  And they must also raise wages for workers at the bottom of the wage scale by increasing the minimum and tipped minimum wages. These initiatives will strengthen families and the economy.”