A grubby little secret that we have all suspected for a very long time has been aired in a recent piece published by The Guardian on male unemployment levels. It made for very concerning reading for me, for obvious reasons.
“Complacency and “general hopelessness” have been blamed for the failure of young British men as research reveals that under-performance in school and university is now creeping into their working lives.”
“Figures show that the economic downturn caused an increase in graduate unemployment from 11.1% at the end of 2008 to 14% by the end of last year. But when the figures are broken down by sex a stark picture emerges of 17.2% of young male graduates failing to find jobs compared to 11.2% of women.”
Male graduates are finding it harder and harder to find meaningful work post-university. This is a pretty shocking statistic, and a snapshot of a society that seems more and more to be failing the young men that it is so quick to demonise as the source of all its ills.
We were all told that going to university would improve our job prospects, irrespective of gender. Yet you only have to take a look at some of the comments in the section below The Guardian’s article to see a handful of managers saying how they would prefer to hire women than men. I’m sure that figure increases when you also factor race into the mix. After all, how many young black males do you see outside of football, music or entertainment earning a decent salary? In my office, I can count the amount of black and mixed-race employees on one hand. Surely, given the makeup of an area such as South London, there is something very wrong with that picture?
Increasingly, men seem to be the victims of an identity crisis that is wiping out their prospects, their self esteem, and their confidence. Men are being paid less, yet being expected to shoulder more of the burden at home, and in the workplace. Hours are getting longer, and salaries (especially in the private sector) are taking a real pounding. Yet we are expected to just grit our teeth, ‘man up’ and carry on. It is increasingly hard to do so.
We know that suicide is the leading cause of death for young men between the ages of 15-34 in the UK. Taking finances, and the effects that a lack of finances can have on a lad’s self-esteem, into account, and the fact that an area such as London (which has a pull on graduate resources) is one of the most expensive cities in which to live in the whole of Europe, it’s sad that more attention hasn’t been paid to the issue.
What can be done to change this?
Well, for starters, we need to change the culture in which men are growing up – the culture which chooses to define how successful you are by the amount of money you have in your back pocket. Why not define success by something else – like how happy you are? Or how much time you spend with your friends and family?
Maybe one day that change will come. Until then however, we need to make as much noise as possible.
I hope so. I’m not generally hopeless, yet I struggled to find a meaningful job after University. I applied for countless jobs from my bedroom and the job centre in Southampton, and ended up working in a call-centre to supplement my income post-university.
This isn’t of course a criticism of call-centre culture; far from it in fact. They gave me a paid job when a lot of employers wouldn’t even look at me twice. And why was that? Well, it was because so-called media companies expected me to work for free as an intern. This is an option that few lads from working class backgrounds can afford without getting into a mountain of debt – especially when you take into account the exorbitant living costs of living in London.
In the midst of all of this criticism of young men, one thing that particularly stood out to me was that outside of football and music, where are the truly positive, lauded male role models who don’t work for a big business? Where are the spokespeople who will stick their head above the parapet and offer genuine encouragement and guidance to our brothers, our sons, our dads?
Role models are not a male-only issue, of course. But guidance where currently there is none, perspectives from different walks of like, would certainly help those men struggling to find work. They would really allow men the chance to fully express themselves and to fulfil their true potential.
Photo by Steve Rhodes