The changes in the nature of work since 1908 are reflected even in the different names and categories used to classify jobs in surveys.
This makes it difficult to track changes in numbers of people doing different types of jobs. However, it is possible to look at the proportions of men and women working in different sectors, as captured in the 1911 and 1951 censuses, and the 2011 Labour Force Survey. From this, we can answer the question: has the distinction between ‘jobs for women’ and ‘jobs for men’ become more blurred over time as more women have entered the workforce?
In the 1911 Census, the largest categories of employment were domestic and personal services, metal manufacturing, transport and communications, textiles and agriculture, horticulture and forestry. Of these, only textiles employed anything close to a balanced number of men and women. Domestic and personal services were dominated by women, while over 95% of workers in agriculture, and transport and communications were men.
Today, none of the major sectors of employment, with the exception of construction, are so overwhelmingly dominated by men or women, and there are few jobs that are perceived to be entirely closed off to one gender. But the divide is still very much in evidence: men are more prevalent in manufacturing (76%), and women in health and social work (78%). If the rate of progress over the last century is anything to go to, a country where male nurses and female metalworkers are entirely unremarkable looks some way off yet.
A level playing field? The chart shows the proportions of men and women working in the five sectors with the largest number of employees.