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Gender differences in cleaning occupations

Data on employment from the BLS

The FRED Blog has discussed the presence of gender gaps in employment in the sports industry. Today we revisit that topic in two seemingly similar occupations within the same industry: janitors & building cleaners and maids & housekeeping cleaners.

The FRED graph above shows Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data for janitors and building cleaners occupations sorted by gender. The areas in the graph are stacked in percent format to facilitate the comparison of proportions: The green area represents men’s employment and the purple area represents women’s employment. The relative size of each area shows that, between 2000 and 2022, when data are available, men traditionally outnumbered women in those occupations.

The second FRED graph presents the gender breakdown of employment in the maids and housekeeping cleaners occupations using the same stacked area visualization. In this industry, the gender pattern is more markedly reversed and noticeably stable over time.

The different gender makeup of those two cleaning industry occupations may stem from the nature of the work involved. The BLS describes the work of janitors and building cleaners using words such as “heavy cleaning duties” and potentially including both outdoors and maintenance tasks. In contrast, the work of maids and housekeeping cleaners is described as involving “light cleaning duties” and lists examples of indoors activities only.

Also, while janitors are likely to work evenings or in shifts, maids’ work schedules can be more flexible. This scheduling flexibility likely facilitates the gendered provision of family childcare services we discussed in an earlier FRED Blog post and further skews the composition of the labor force.

How these graphs were created: Search FRED for and select “Employed full time: Wage and salary workers: Janitors and building cleaners occupations: 16 years and over: Women.” Next, click on the “Edit Graph” button and use the “Add Line” tab to search for and add “Employed full time: Wage and salary workers: Janitors and building cleaners occupations: 16 years and over: Men.” Next, click on the “Format” tab and change the graph type to “Area” and the stacking to “Percent.” For the second graph, repeat with “maids and housecleaning occupations.”

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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