March 19th 2011

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Taxpayers to help subsidise UN's $100 billion climate fund

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Greens give marching orders to Julia Gillard

NEW ZEALAND: Questions about Christchurch earthquake

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Elton John and the new stolen generation

DRUGS: Latest push to promote needle/syringe programs

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Mondragón worker co-ops ride out global slump

UNITED STATES: How the recession has hurt working-class men

MIDDLE EAST I: Misunderstanding the events rocking the Middle East

MIDDLE EAST II: Are Western diplomats up to the job?

RUSSIA: Gorbachev slams 'rich and debauched' elite

UNITED KINGDOM: British High Court's assault on Christianity

EUTHANASIA: What must patients do to avoid being killed?

OBITUARY: Abortionist who became pro-life crusader: Bernard Nathanson (1926-2011)

OPINION: Politicisation of our public service

Howard left federal Budget in surplus (letter)

National investment fund (letter)

Bob Brown's machinations (letter)

BOOK REVIEW: COURTING DISASTER: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack, by Marc A. Thiessen

BOOK REVIEW: THE STORY OF ENGLISH: How the English Language Conquered the World, by Philip Gooden

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How the recession has hurt working-class men

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, March 19, 2011
While lamenting alleged sexism in the workplace for decades, the media have remained strangely quiet about the gender-specific impact of the recession that began in 2008.

According to American journalist Don Peck, writing in The Atlantic magazine ("How a new jobless era will transform America", March 2010), the job losses of the past three years have turned into what others call a "he-cession", which does not bode well for the future of marriage, the family and society.

Peck observes: "The weight of this recession has fallen most heavily upon men, who've suffered three-quarters of the 8 million job losses since the beginning of 2008.

"Male-dominated industries (construction, finance, manufacturing) have been particularly hard-hit, while sectors that disproportionately employ women (education, health care) have held up relatively well."

"In November, 19.4 percent of all men in their prime working years, 25 to 54, did not have jobs, the highest figure since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the statistics in 1948. At the time of this writing, it looks possible that within a few months, for the first time in US history, women will hold a majority of the country's jobs."

Peck believes that Mirra Komarovsky's account of the Great Depression, The Unemployed Man and His Family (1936), is remarkably applicable 75 years later, as her interviews with out-of-work husbands and fathers "paint a picture of diminished men, bereft of familial authority".

The observation of one unemployed man quoted by the sociologist - that would never be said of a woman then or now - says it all: "A man is not a man without work."

Given that most married men work to support wives and children, their loss of jobs is more catastrophic than job losses among women, whose families depend less, on average, on their income.

Unlike other observers, Peck sees the social dimension of the current recession. If job losses among men are not reversed, he projects higher rates of divorce in the next few years, even as the divorce rate fell slightly in 2008.

He thinks the observation of sociologist Brad Wilcox, "If men can't make a contribution financially, they don't have much to offer", gives wives - who initiate two-thirds of divorces - greater reason to dump their man.

As the working-class is prone to family break-up more than the college-educated, the social impact of prolonged levels of male unemployment could be a disaster as well, as working-class neighbourhoods take on the characteristics of the inner city, where "large numbers of unmarried men take on an unsavoury character over time".

If Peck is right, his account is a wake-up call for policy-makers, especially after a generation of affirmative action for tertiary-educated women, to think about ways to enhance job opportunities and earnings of breadwinning husbands, especially those without tertiary credentials.



Don Peck, "How a new jobless era will transform America", The Atlantic, March 2010, pp. 42–56.

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