Social Stigma Against Future-Proof Occupations

Some occupations are more future-proof than others. The demand for elderly care, for example, is expected to grow, as is the demand for dog walkers and trainers, fitness instructors, hair stylists, and teachers. But there is often a social stigma against such occupations, and they’re being labeled as “last resort” ones – to be taken only by those who cannot find work in other, more reputable and better-earning occupations.

It is difficult to quantify to what extent social stigma affects potential workers’ decision to choose, or not to choose, an occupation. Given that demand for health-care workers, especially in elderly care, is expected to rise significantly, this could become a major problem.

@KarinLewis, @elcole, what can be done to overcome this stigma? Are there any successful programs or policies you’re aware of?

Interestingly, part of my job includes work with immigrant doctors who cannot get licenced in Canada, and who are looking for work in the senior’s services sector. They are more than capable and willing to make a huge contribution.

There are many good reasons for this stigma: low pay, physically demanding work, difficult hours, combined with high risk and responsibility. It has been my experience that** much of the stigma comes from the low pay** and the fact that these are female dominated jobs (not unrelated issues, of course)

I’d argue that stigma isn’t the core problem: low pay is. Many of these jobs are paid by the state (esp outside the US) and governments need to be pressured to raise the pay bar on these professions. They have to be supported by the labour movement to organize and lobby for their rights to fair pay and decent, safe working conditions.

@KarinLewis - REALLY appreciate your perspective here! :slight_smile: What role (if any) do you think labor unions play/can play in these low-pay/state paid professions? Are labor unions a thing of the past? Or do you think they could play a contributing role in the unfoldment of the future of work?

@HeatherSutton – stigmatized jobs are almost always poorly paid. To impact on this, labour unions can play the roles they have always played, that is to advocate on behalf of members for better pay and working conditions.

Labour unions are not a thing of the past worldwide, nor should they should not be allowed to become so – they can play an important role in raising the profile and value of the work of those they represent.

Here in Canada, for example, teachers’ unions are highly effective in raising the profile of their work and reminding the public of its value.

There’s a labor union for freelancers and the self-employed in the Netherlands: FNV Zelfstandigen.

I worry we’re seeing a divide in the labor market, though, between well-educated, well-paid professionals, who feel they don’t need a union to bargain for decent wages and benefits, and lower-skilled, lower-paid workers, who are unable to unionize – whether it’s because they’re technically qualified as self-employed, don’t have the time, or are undocumented – and who don’t have a strong bargaining position individually vis-a-vis their employer.

@dshap54, you may also have thoughts on this. Please let us know what you think!

I think in a lot of ways it’s less about social stigma and more about social capital- exposure, access, pathways, support. Do I know anyone who does this job? Can anyone get me in? Who can help me navigate the sub-culture of the job. The stigma questions as others have said is typically trumped by the wage question. Sure there are social norms that get in the way but I’d say social capital can always overcome that.

@Bart, @karchopra, I’d like to ask your input on this discussion as well. Do you agree this is a big problem? Are there any solutions that have already been tried?