Dissatisfaction amongst working-class male voters and their families has been put forward as part of the reason for the recent Brexit, Trump and One Nation successes. This post concludes that, in Australia, some men really are struggling and feel that some of their problems are being ignored by the political establishment.
Jessica Irvine (1) had some relevant comments about what is happening to men and women in Australia. She said that there is more polarization among men and that more men are working at the top and bottom of the skills ladder. “The proportion of men in the highest fifth of highly skilled jobs rose in the decades since the 1970’s but to a lesser extent to the gains of women. But crucially, the share of men working in the lowest skilled jobs also rose in the 1970s, 1980s 1990s but not in the 2000s.” By contrast, “in every decade since the 1970s, the share of women working in the lowest fifth of skilled jobs has shrunk” and “the proportion of women working in the highest fifth of jobs…has risen.”
She goes on to say that: “This loss of secure, full time traditional jobs is fueling an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among working-class men that is being increasingly exploited by charismatic politicians.”
Changes in the relative position of men and women and the economic downturn in Central Qld are not the only issues affecting men’s lives (and the lives of women associated with them.) Like some women, many men are having a hard time for a variety of reasons, including health and the expectations our culture places on men.
Suicide rates are one of the indicators that suggest that some men are finding life hard. For example, preliminary results for 2015 (2) had 44 men committing suicide each week, compared with the still awful 14 per week for women. These figures are the tip of an iceberg. When someone commits suicide, family, friends etc. all suffer substantially and others may be inspired to commit suicide themselves.
In addition, there are many more people who go through similar hard times but manage to live with these problems and avoid suicide. People going through hard times may also make things hard for family etc.
Sometimes men face “people problems” that can be resolved by “people solutions.” However, some problems are largely men’s problems or the best solutions for men are not the same as those that are effective for women. Male-specific health problems are an obvious example, but men’s lower life expectancy, educational achievement and greater incidence of suicide may be other examples.
At the moment parties like Labor and the Greens can, quite rightly, be seen to be acting on a range of women’s and people’s issues. However, it is a bit harder to see much sympathy or action on men-specific issues.
1. Jessica Irvine “Women’s stocks go up, men’s polarised” – pp16, SMH 28 Nov 2016.
2. MindFrame ABS data (http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-suicide/facts-and-stats)