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Project ID: HPSE-CT-1999-00008
Finanziato nell'ambito di: FP5-HUMAN POTENTIAL
Paese: United Kingdom

The social problem of men: Home and work

Recurring themes include men’s occupational, working and wage advantages over women, gender segregation at work, many men’s close associations with paid work, men in non-traditional occupations. There has been a general lack of attention to men as managers, policy-makers, owners and other power holders. In many countries there are twin problems of the unemployment of some or many men in certain social categories, and yet work-overload and long working hours for other men. These can especially be a problem for young men and young fathers; they can affect both working class and middle class men as, for example, during economic recession. Work organisations are becoming more time-hungry and less secure and predictable. While, it is necessary not to overstate the uniformity of this trend which is relevant to certain groups only and not all countries, time utilisation emerges as a fundamental issue of creating difference in everyday negotiations between men and women.

Another recurring theme is men’s benefit from avoidance of domestic responsibilities, and the absence of fathers. In some cases, this tradition of men’s avoidance of childcare and domestic responsibilities is very recent indeed and still continues for the majority of men. In some cases it is being reinforced through new family ideologies within transformation processes. In many countries there is a general continuation of traditional ‘solutions’ in domestic arrangements, but growing recognition of the micro-politics of fatherhood, domestic responsibilities, and home-work reconciliation at least for some men. In many countries there are also counter and conflictual tendencies. On the one hand, there is an increasing emphasis on home, caring, relations. This may be connected to ”family values”, a political right wing or a gender equal status perspective. It is not surprising if there may be a degree of cultural uncertainty on men’s place in the home and as fathers and a growing recognition of ambivalence, even when there is a strong familism. There is also in some countries a growing interest in the reconciliation of work and home; and growing variety of ways of approaching this.

Given the considerable difference that still exists between men’s and women’s earnings, it is not surprising that it is the woman who usually stays at home after the birth of a child. Since she is usually the person with the lower income, a couple does not need to be wholehearted advocates of traditional domestic ideology to opt for the traditional solution. On the other hand, this labour market difference is not in itself enough to explain the persistence of such patterns. Other factors include the impact of power relations between women and men in marriage and similar couple relationships. Moreover, this pattern of women’s tendency to leave the labour force for childrearing, for varying amounts of time, has to be understood in terms of the diverse patterns across Europe. Evidence from Nordic countries shows that parental leave which is left to negotiations between men and women, are mostly taken up by women, although most people, men especially, say they want a more balanced situation. Men and indeed fathers are clearly not an homogeneous group. Men’s unemployment can have clear and diverse effects on men’s lives in families.

Among men there has long been a contradiction between the ideas they profess and the way they actually live. The fact that men and women living together do not always give the same assessment of their relationship in general and the distribution of tasks between them in particular has become a much discussed topic in methodology. The paradoxical ways in which gender conflicts on the distribution of housework may be negotiated may be illustrated from German research: while in the early 1980s women living with men were generally more likely than men to claim that they did more of the work, some studies in the 1990s have shown the opposite.

Policy recommendations on men’s relations to home and work:
One central recommendation is to encourage men to devote more time and priority to caring, housework, childcare, and the reconciliation of home and paid work. Other recommendations included: to remove men’s advantages in paid work and work organisations, as with the persistence of the gender wage, non-equal opportunities practices in appointment and promotion, and domination of top level jobs; policies on men in transnational organisations and their development of equality policies; to encourage men’s positive contribution to gender equality; to remove discriminations against men, such as compulsory conscription of men into the armed forces, and discriminations against gay men.

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University of Sunderland
Priestman Building, Green Terrace
SR1 3PZ Sunderland
United Kingdom
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