This week we reported that male graduates are 60% more likely to be unemployed than female graduates (up from 50% last year). The most interesting thing about this story is that there is no agreed reason as to why this is happening, so we’ve been canvassing opinions all week and come up with a list of 10 possible reasons.
1. Men are less employable because they take the wrong degrees
This is a common suggestion and it’s certainly true that you are more likely to be unemployed if you study medicine than if you take a media studies degree. However, when you drill down into the data you quickly discover that male graduates in nearly all subject areas are more likely to be unemployed than their female counterparts. So while me men who take media studies are certainly more likely to be unemployed than men who take medicine and dentistry; male media studies graduates are 40% more likely to be jobless than female media studies graduates and male medicine and dentistry graduates are 50% more likely to be jobless than female medicine and dentistry graduates. The only significant exception to this rule is agricultural studies, where female graduates are 14% more likely to be jobless.
2. Gentlemen prefer a life of leisure
Proponents of preference theory argue that gender differences in areas such as the gender pay gap are caused not by external forces, like systemic or cultural discrimination, but by internal forces such as our personal preferences. Preference theorists believe that the main reason women earn less is that they prefer to work part-time or prioritize their family.
According to Trefor Lloyd at the Boys Development Project: “The gap between female and male graduates has existed for some while, and says more about male graduate attitudes towards the workplace than the workplace itself.” If Trefor is correct, then the higher rates of unemployment amongst male graduates could be down to psychological factors like personal preference and attitudes towards work.
3 Men lack the necessary social skills to get a good job
Several people suggested that male graduates may lack the relevant skills to perform as well as women in an interview. One insideMAN reader, Daniel Dewey, said: “Men in general have much of their competitive drive removed by the current education system. It makes female graduates who are more complete and sure of themselves than male graduates. That is an important air to have in the interview process."
Trefor Lloyd at the Boys Development Project agrees with the theory that women may perform better at interviews. He told us: “There is research that suggests that more young women than men possess the softer ‘people skills’ which employers are looking for and certainly at interview. Often young women interview better and have more basic work skills (punctuality, and ability to take an instruction).”
4 Positive discrimination in favour of women
Some people believe that male graduates are the victims of positive discrimination in favour of women. Their theory is that as more employers seek to increase the numbers of women they employ in pursuit of gender quotas, the more male graduates get squeezed out of the picture.
One of our followers on Facebook said: “We are moving away from meritocratic appointment and sliding towards some form of corporate Marxism in which good people go to waste and jobs are allocated on arbitrary demographic. This equality push towards more female employees is creating a greater number of male unemployed. We’ve created a monster potentially.”
5 Discrimination against women
Some people think than men are the secondary victims of sexism against women. As one male reader commented on Facebook: “male bosses hire attractive females to perv on”. Could male graduates really missing out on job opportunities because sexist male bosses have replace the motto “jobs for the boys” with a new catchprase---“jobs for the sexy girls”?
6 It’s the gender pay gap stupid
This is an interesting suggestion from the comments section of insideMan from Anne Dyster who said: “Even in this day and age there is a tendency to pay women less than men for the same job. If women are “cheaper” they are more likely to be employed.”
We’re not convinced that this is true as most evidence on the gender pay gap suggests that it isn’t caused by men being paid more for the same job, but by men working in higher paid jobs and investing more hours in their career lives.
7 It’s discrimination against men
When the statistics about male graduate unemployment were posted on Men’s Rights forums we were offered a number of theories which included: “positive discrimination, gynocentrism, male disposability”; “social engineering”; “making males more disposable/irrelevant” and “pandering to women and ****ing over EVERYONE else”.
8 The End of Men
According to Hanna Rosin, the author of the book The End of Men, women are getting the edge over men in the workplace because of the growth of “white collar” industries. Writing in the Atlantic in 201 she said: “A white-collar economy values raw intellectual horsepower, which men and women have in equal amounts. It also requires communication skills and social intelligence, areas in which women, according to many studies, have a slight edge. Perhaps most important—for better or worse—it increasingly requires formal education credentials, which women are more prone to acquire”.
Trefor Lloyd of the Boys Development Project suggests that some employers may make assumptions that men don't have the right skills, simply because they are men. He told us: "There is a suggestion that employers can be quite stereotyped about young men NOT having these skills as well."
9 Are men avoiding the bottom of the male hierarchy
In a world where the majority of primary breadwinners are still male and women still rank ambition and financial success as two of the key traits they look for in partners, male graduates may feel they have a long way to climb when they enter the job market. As well as being more likely to be unemployed, male graduates who are in work are also more likely to earn higher salaries than their female counterparts. This means there is a far more pronounced hierarchy of earnings for men than for women. Could it be that male graduates are more likely to be unemployed because they are hanging out for a better paid job or avoiding the pressure of having to scale the male breadwinner hierarchy all together.
According to Trefor Lloyd of the Boys Development Project: ‘There is research evidence that says many young women leave university and go into the workplace with an attitude that once you are in a job you can move around. So they take jobs often below their qualification level. In contrast many young men think ‘I have been studying for 3 or 4 years, so I am not going to work unless I am paid £30K’. The result is that that they come in at the same level as young women, but on average 6 months later.”
10 We are blind to the problems that men face
Whatever the cause of the higher levels of male graduate unemployment, part of the problem is that we are blind to the problems facing men and boys. If female graduates were more likely to be unemployed we would expect the problem to be highlighted and yet seem blind to such issues when they affect men. As insideMAN reader, Daniel Dewey said: “There is a dearth of support groups, assistance, and tailoring to men throughout education and government, and I think that shows when all else is held equal.”
Mary Curnock Cook, Chief Executive of UCAS agrees with Daniel that we need to pay more attention to the needs of young men in education. She told insideMAN that the stubborn gap between men and women in education could eclipse the gap between rich and poor within a decade. “Young men are becoming a disadvantaged group in terms of going to university,” she said “and this underperformance needs urgent focus across the education sector.”
For more on this story see Ken Harland and Sam McCready, from the Centre for Young Men’s Studies analysis here: So, why ARE male graduates more likely to be unemployed?
Why do you think male graduates are more likely to be unemployed than their female counterparts? Do you agree with any of the 10 theories above or do you have your own ideas. Either way we’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so if you have a theory then please leave a comment below this article.
—Photo Credit: flickr/bensonk42