Work brings men many rewards, but it can also carry repercussions, expose us to risk and lead to lifelong regrets, writes Glen Poole.
Both men’s and women’s experience of work tends to be heavily gendered in terms of the sectors we work in; the types of jobs we do; the hours we work and the importance we place on our careers.
This issue is often explored from a female perspective, but rarely from a male perspective. With this in mind we decided to create this list of the Top 10 negative impacts of work that are known to have an unequal effect on men.
Unless otherwise stated the statistics in this article are taken from the Office for National Statistics bulletin on the UK Labour Market (July 2014).
1. Men spend more of their lives at work than women
In 2012, the Australian nurse Bronnie Ware, wrote a book called The Top Five Regrets of Dying, based on her experience of caring for patients in the last weeks of their lives. One of the key observations of the book is that every male patient she nursed wished they hadn’t worked so hard, because they missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.
The average man in the UK still spends more of his life at work than the average woman. At the latest count, eight out of ten men in the UK are in work (78.1%) compared to seven out of ten women (68.1%). In total, men are responsible for nearly two-thirds (61%) of the one billion hours people in the UK spend working every week. This means that for every ten hours the average woman works, the average man works 15 hours and 38 minutes.
Men are also three times more likely than women to be working more than 45 hours a week, with 4.6 million men putting in the long hours on a regular basis. For self-employed men the gap is even bigger with five times more self-employed men working over 45 hours a week than self-employed women.
2. Men are more likely to be unemployed
As well as spending more time at work than women, men are also more likely to experience unemployment. The majority (55%) of the 2.12 million unemployed people in the UK are men. Men are more than twice as likely to experience long-term unemployment. There are currently 415,000 people in the UK who have been unemployed for more than two years and seven out of ten of them (68%) are men.
The gender divide in unemployment starts early in life. According to the latest figures, 76% of long-term youth unemployed aged 16-24 are male, as are 62% of the half a million (534,000) of the UK’s unemployed young NEETs (people not in employment, education or training).
3. Men are less likely to be economically inactive
The economic inactivity rate for men has been gradually rising since 1971, while the rate for women has been gradually falling. Women are still nearly twice as likely as men to be economically inactive, with women accounting for 63% of the 8.8 million people in the UK who are of working age, but not in work or registered as looking for work.
Being economically inactive can be viewed as both a positive and a negative experience, depending on the individual and the reason for their economic activity. A positive experience for economic inactivity could include study, early retirement and choosing to prioritise home and family. A negative experience could include long-term illness, giving up on looking for work and feeling you have no choice but to prioritise caring for a family member.
Men who are economically inactive are more likely to say they haven’t chosen their situation, with 28% saying they want to work, compared to 24% of women. Men also account for the majority (63%) of the 38 thousand people who say they are economically inactive because they are “discouraged” with the world of work.
4. Part-time work doesn’t pay for men
Men are twice as likely as women to be at work full time, with two-thirds of full-time workers (64%) and a quarter of part-time workers (26%) being male.
There are currently around two million men in the UK have part-time jobs and fewer than half (46%) say they are working part-time because they don’t want a full-time job. In contrast, 75% of the six million women who work part time say they choose to work shorter hours because they don’t want a full-time job.
Men who take part-time roles can face a hefty financial penalty and are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to hourly pay as they are paid slightly less than women who work part time and receive considerably less pay than full-time workers. The pay gap for male part-timers is 74% compared to male full-timers, 56% compared to female full-timers and 5.6% compared to female part-timers.
5 More men face the uncertainty of the private sector and self employment
Men are less likely to enjoy the security of public sector employment and more likely to face the job insecurity that sometimes accompanies private sector employment and self employment.
Men account for a third (34%) of public sector workers; six out of 10 (58%) of the UK’s private sector employees; seven out of 10 (68%) of the country’s 4.6 million self employed workers and eight out of 10 (81%) self-employed people who work full time.
6. Male workers are more likely to be hit by recession
Men’s jobs are generally less recession proof than women, a fact that led some commentators to dub the global economic decline of 2008-2012 the “great mancession”.
In the UK for example, the number of men in work fell at nearly 50 times the rate of the number of the women in work. By the start of 2012 there were 387,000 fewer men in work (a net fall of 2.4%) than in the first quarter of 2008, according to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. By contrast the number of women in work was only 8,000 (0.05%) lower.
Research on the impact of the recession found that the most recent economic crisis was linked to an additional 1,000 suicides in the UK and 84% of these recession suicides were men.
7. Men are at greater risk of redundancy
Even when the economy isn’t in crisis, men are at greater risk of redundancy and less likely to be re-employed once they become redundant. In the past 12 months, for example, men in the UK have been nearly 50% more likely to be made redundant accounting for six out of ten (59%) of the half a million redundancies (477,000) recorded from June 2013 to May 2014. This isn’t simply a result of there being more men in the workforce as a higher proportion of men than women face redundancy every week. In the most recent quarter, for example, the redundancy rate was 5% for men (down from 6.1% in the previous quarter) and 4% for women (up from 3%).
8. Work is more dangerous for men
9 Men pay more tax than women
It is said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. One inevitable consequence of men spending more time at work is that they also pay more income tax than women on average. We all benefit in some way from the combined financial contribution that men make to the country through wealth creation and taxation. In a typical year, male workers are currently responsible for paying 72% of the money collected by the UK Government through income tax.
10. Men have shorter retirements
Women in the UK have long enjoyed the right to retire earlier than men, though the retirement is now due to be equalised in 2018. In the meantime, women of working age are nearly twice as likely to be economically inactive because they choose to retire early, accounting for 65% of the 1.3 million people in this category. Men are also 50% more likely to be working beyond traditional retirement age, accounting for 60% of the 1.14million people in the UK who are still working after the age of 65.
In 2010, the average age of retirement was 64.6 years for men and 62.3 years for women. The average life expectancy for men aged 65 in 2010-2012 was 83.4 years and for women it was 85.9 years. This means that the average man in the UK who reaches 65 can expect a retirement that is five years shorter than the average woman.
The final word
In summary, while many men reap the rewards that work can provide, we are also disproportionately more likely to suffer the risks, repercussions and regrets associated with the world of work.
When compared with women, men spend more time at work; less time in retirement; are more likely to be killed at work; are at greater risk of redundancy and unemployment and are more likely to be lose our jobs in a recession.
I’ll leave the last word to a woman, Bronnie Ware who has spent time with enough dying men to know what our final thoughts on this matter are likely to be as we shuffle off this mortal coil:
“All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
—Photo credit: Flickr/CarbonNYC
Article by Glen Poole author of the book Equality For Men
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