Richard Posner is puzzled by by increases in female earnings. After all: "Women are not as well suited to perform jobs requiring upper-body strength as men are, but men can perform virtually all service jobs as well as women can."
As developed economies move away from goods producing industries and towards services, there has been a shift in the demand for skills. The demand for manual skills has fallen while the demand for interpersonal skills has grown. Many of the new service jobs require ‘emotional labour‘ — labour that requires workers to attend to the emotions of the people they serve.
Skills develop throughout life. While some are learned at school, on the job or through formal training, others are learned through socialisation. And there’s good reason to think that women’s socialisation gives them an advantage in jobs requiring emotional labour. According to American academic Hazel-Anne Johnson:
… research has shown that women who perform emotional labor are significantly more satisfied than men who perform the same type of job (Wharton, 1993). This suggests that women may be socialized to handle the interpersonal demands of emotion management in service work, and this competency may lead them to have a more positive experience than their male counterparts (pdf).
According to psychologist Alicia Grandey: "It is possible that in service settings, men may need more training to manage emotions when dealing with customers."
There is some evidence that a mismatch between socialisation and job demands is one of the factors behind the falling labour force participation of less educated working class men. According to UK sociologist Darren Nixon many of the service industry jobs available to workers with low levels of education require "skills, dispositions and demeanours that are antithetical to the masculine working-class habitus."
So socialisation may be the solution to Posner’s puzzle. If so, what are the policy implications?