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The Workforce Investment Act and Women’s Progress: Does WIA Funded Training Reinforce Sex Segregation in the Labor Market and the Gender Wage Gap?

Authors:
  • Institute for Women's Policy Research

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The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) is the primary basis for federally funded workforce development. One of its stated purposes it to “increase the employment, retention and earnings of participants… ” 1 While earnings data suggest that both men and women benefit from WIA services, average earnings among women who received WIA services are significantly lower than average earnings for men. The data suggest that women's and men's participation in training for traditionally 'female ' and 'male ' occupations is a major factor contributing to the earnings gap between women and men who received WIA services. The gap is not the result of less extensive WIA services for women. During the current legislative session, Congress will consider the reauthorization of WIA. It is important to discuss policy measures that would more effectively target resources to increase female WIA service recipients ’ earnings. Improving women’s earnings would help to promote and sustain the economic self-sufficiency of women and their families during the current recession and beyond. The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) requires states receiving federal workforce development funds to provide local employment and training services to help individuals, particularly those who are in low paid jobs or are unemployed because of permanent economic changes, gain lasting employment with sufficient earnings to allow for ‘self-sufficiency. ’ 2 It also requires states to collect data on service users, including the type of services received, the length and type of training provided, and earnings data for individuals in the quarters following their ‘exit ’ from
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