How male joblessness affects women

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Last October when Julia Gillard lost her temper and stood up to misogyny, she crossed a line.  Many of us cheered and gave her a blue ribbon.  Yet another unseen line was almost crossed that week.  And it’s the stories behind that unpublicised fact that partly explain the vitriolic hatred of our first female Prime Minister and the current brutal backlash against feminists on social media.

It’s to do with work.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, my dad worked hard and my mum stayed at home reading Germaine Greer.  That was normal - 61% of jobs in the economy went to men working full time.  The 70s may have favoured flares but its economy favoured blue collar, blue singlet male work.   

But my kids are growing up in a very different world of work.  Because, as flares made way for shoulder pads in the eighties the economy began to transform from blue collar to pink collar.  And now, in the naughties, that pink collar is getting lipstick on it. 

Due to a massive restructuring there’s been a fall in full- time male jobs and a rise in part-time work in areas increasingly dominated by women - health care, social welfare, sales and the professions. At 45% full-time male workers are now a minority of our workforce.

And while Julia Gillard was giving it to a stone-faced Abbott in parliament new statistics were released that showed 62% of married women were working and 63% of unmarried men.  If that statistic stays on trend there will soon be more married women with a job than single blokes.

I learnt this over the weekend when economics writer George Megalogenis pointed it out to Anne Summers at the Byron Bfay Writers Festival. Anne responded reasonably that the new economy hasn’t brought equality.  Women’s full-time jobs have only risen by one pathetic per cent since I was a kid and part-time work means less pay, less power and less influence.  There’s still a huge gap in wages and much discrimination against women in the workforce - as now recognised by many men such as Kim O’Grady in his piece in Daily Life yesterday.   

All Kim had to do to get a job was add ‘Mr’ to his CV.  But for every Kim there are many Kevins who can’t change their fate so easily because they can’t get a job in the new economy.  George Megalogenis says massive economic and social change is making a new underclass ‘these men may not have the muscle to go into mining and have no trade or degree. They are now as unlikely to have a job as a sole parent or an Aboriginal Australian’.  But unlike a single mother or an Indigenous Australian these men are not used to feeling powerless. 

Power is associated with masculinity.  Perhaps these threats against women who work for equality, who speak out as feminists are an attempt to restore power and dominance.  And not just from the new underclass. Many comfortable middle class lives were washed away by the global financial crisis and there’s a palpable fear that the world is changing too fast.  Julia Gillard became a focus of rage partly because while men were losing status in the brave new world of work a woman got the top job in the country.

This does not excuse the backlash. It doesn’t excuse the vitriol, the fury, the demeaning sexual vilification and the misogyny.  It doesn’t mean we don’t need mechanisms to drive us towards equality.  After all, men still hold the reins of power and the levers of the economy.

But we need to be aware many men and their families are feeling fearful and furious.  God knows our politicians do.  They are courting these voters in this election.  Old Kevin will try to get the votes of young Kevin and Tony Abbott has been gunning for him for some time. But George Megalogenis urges caution in the wooing and overpromising  “The old unemployed male version of Alan Jones can’t do much harm to the country but the young unemployed male version of Kyle Sandilands might’. 

Now Julia Gillard has crossed the line towards unemployment herself, Australia needs to ensure that we don’t make empty promises and pander to prejudice.  The next government needs to help men and women adjust to a new economy and find new jobs.  And hopefully adjust to a future that is fair for both sexes.

 

 

79 comments

  • Do women really want to work full time in demanding jobs until they are sixty seven? I'd love to semi retire, work a 20 hour week in a low pressure job and have a day for my sport and another for socializing. If I had to retire on my wife's super I could live with that too. There is a lot more to life than money and woman such as Anne Summers who advocate 'equal pay' for women should be careful of what they wish for.

    Commenter
    JohnA
    Date and time
    August 06, 2013, 8:43AM
    • Oh, what fresh hell is this?

      Many women already work demanding jobs, full-time until they are 67 (or more) and don't retire on their husband's super. And not just single women, either.

      Here's a different question. Do you really want to work a demanding, full-time job until 67 and take about a 20% pay cut due to your gender? Because that is more like the situation we are facing. Do you have any idea how insulting it sounds to tell women that equal pay is actually against our best interests?

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 9:39AM
    • I don't think there is any reason whatsoever why we shouldn't have equal pay for equal work.

      Commenter
      Hurrow
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 9:49AM
    • Red Pony - Why the outrage? I don't want to work full time. When I finally achieve that part time work, I'll be on par with my wife who also doesn't want to work full time. You have no desire for a decent lifestyle? Or is really all about working and earning more money. It strikes me that there's a massive capitalist con job going on and it's very successful.

      Commenter
      JTO
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 12:09PM
    • Red Pony,
      I 100% agree in equal pay for equal work, no exceptions. What I am talking about is choice. I personally know many women who either don't work or who work part time and they are happier than their husbands who are still on the work treadmill.

      "The gender pay gap" is 17.5 % of average full time earnings before overtime, it does not take into account the nature of the work, the qualifications required, danger or physical exertion in the work, nor does it take into account the fact that men work on average 3 hours more per week and travel further to work. Given the high ratio of female to male university students we will soon see the situation where women are higher paid than men and men are working part time in their fifties while women are working full time.

      You are obviously quite young, when you are in your fifties you might realize how futile and pointless working yourself to death for more money is. If I had my life again I would choose a better lifestyle and have been less interested in money.

      Commenter
      JohnA
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 12:18PM
    • Already do get equal pay for equal work.

      What kills it for a women's career progression is having babies - and rightfully so. Same would apply for men who like to have extended holidays. Same age, but different experience and different priorities.

      Commenter
      Blake
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 12:59PM
    • @ Red Pony. I don't know too many jobs which offer different pay to men and women who are on the same level. In light of this I don't understand how inequality in pay is worked out but I am happy to be lectured on it because the concept bewilders me.

      The only thing I would add without reading any studies on the issue is that of course if a woman takes maternity leave for a year or two while her male colleague who was on the same level continues to work - we could expect to see the male progress in salary by a year or two. But that would be the same if I as a male took a year off work for any other reason, then I couldn't expect the same salary as those I graduated with who have been in the industry the entire time. Can somebody please gently explain to me how inequality in pay shows itself?

      Commenter
      Hater
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 2:06PM
    • Red Pony,
      no the real question is do you want to get paid 20% less because you demand part time or flexible hours at work and yet still complain about being discriminated against.

      Do you know how offensive it is to full time workers that part timers or people taking years off work still demand to be paid the same for less work?

      Commenter
      Freddie Frog
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 2:30PM
    • JohnA, get real!!!!! be careful of what u wish for?????.....if you are doing the same work as a male then you should be getting the same pay, just because you are male doesn't mean you should get more than a female. Being male doesn't give the right to rule the roost! I work in emergency services, fire brigade to be exact and we get equal pay for doing the same job, as it should be. What are you scared of JohnA a female that earns the same as you and can do the same job as you......stop being so precious cry baby!!!!!

      Commenter
      Equal Pay
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 2:47PM
    • Blake,

      Astounding that you would liken maternity leave to an "extended holiday".

      What is even the point of trying to have a discussion with you guys - you're completely in denial about the FACT that we have a huge gender pay gap, or just seek to justify it by saying it's totally fair because women have children, even though many of us don't and there's STILL a gender pay gap starting at graduate level, for the same work!

      Even if you could hand-wave this away with the excuse that "women have kids", where's the analysis of why it's almost always women who are forced to bear the economic brunt of childcare, needing to take time off, return part-time or take positions they are overqualified and underpaid for? It takes two to make a baby. And if one more person asserts that it's simply a matter of "choice" I think I'll have to go and soak my brain in liquor.

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      August 06, 2013, 3:31PM

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