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Working mothers provide opportunity for community colleges

Two interesting articles published recently. One suggested that labor shortages will plague employers for years to come, based on a report released by The other reported the results of research on the impact of working mothers in Egypt.

The first piece suggested that the working age population (15-65) will decrease in the coming years. This is the result of an increased rate of retirement among aging Baby Boomers, and the decrease in the number of available workers to replace them. This isn’t a localized occurrence. Researchers expect to see this pattern all over the world. In the US, analysts expect to see the working-age population decline by 3% between 2026 and 2036.

The chief economist for Indeed/Glassdoor suggested in his forward to the report that there were three reasonable ways to alleviate the impact of the labor shortage in the US. They were increasing immigration, increasing labor productivity, and recruiting non-participants into the workforce.

The second piece examined the impact of Egyptian working mothers on employment stability among their daughters. For many reasons, the number of employed women in Egypt is abysmally low, but a small subset of women work outside the home. The researchers studied data collected over 12 years, and found that there was a positive correlation between employment stability among daughters who, in adolescence, witnessed their mothers working.

So, first – a working mother is more likely to produce a working daughter. Second, the working daughter of a working mother is more likely to maintain stable employment. The research also found that working fathers did not have the same impact on their daughters.

Working mothers may be the key to positive economic gains

In the end, the Egyptian research may have no bearing on women in other countries, but the findings are certainly intriguing.

Nearly half of women in the United States are underemployed. This seems like an opportunity to draw more women into the workforce and build the cultural infrastructure that will keep the subsequent generation of women in the workforce.

Immigration is a highly politically charged topic right now. It doesn’t actually solve the labor problem; it merely transfers working-age people from one area of the world to another. The ultimate impact may be to exaggerate economic inequality between regions of the world.

Increasing labor productivity may be a solution for an economy that is centered on the production of goods. It is not as well suited to service-based work. But drawing in new participants into the labor pool is likely to be the best option to address labor needs in the coming years.

Those voted most likely to not participate in the workforce? Women. Without delving into the reasons for this, the Lancaster University research shows that working mothers can be exemplars for the generation of women who follow them. But women often require accommodations that revolve around childcare, work hours, education, and equitable compensation. (This is another reason that closing WCC’s on-campus childcare center was a bone-headed decision.)

Community colleges must recognize this opportunity

Community colleges seem ideally suited to enable female workers to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the labor market. But the educational programs need to lead to high-wage work. This is simply more evidence to suggest that community colleges need to better differentiate the value of their degree programs. Right now, according to research performed by Georgetown University, an associate degree will produce about $4,200 more in annual income than a certificate or college coursework will. (That’s $2 per hour over the course of a year.) An associate degree can generate $3.50 more per hour than a high school diploma can.

In the world of 7%-8% inflation with rising housing, transportation, and childcare costs, this simply isn’t enough. There are plenty of high-wage work opportunities out there that women would be ideally suited for – provided they can access them. Community colleges need to take a long, hard look at the degree programs they offer and make some decisions about the programs to keep or cancel.

Preparing people to take on low-wage jobs serves exactly no one, so let’s stop doing it.

Photo Credit: GSCSNJ , via Flickr