Of Inactivity, Work and Manliness

I find that once again I’ve been a statistic that I didn’t know I was. Or am I?

This time around the stats involved have to do with Work and Men. Or rather Inactivity.

In my adult lifetime the amount of time that men actually work, the opposite of Inactivity, has changed in our society. This article, The Mysterious Rise of the Non-Working Man, in the Atlantic explains the stats.

In the 1970s, the decade in which I joined the ranks of working age males, 95% of men between 25 and 54 had employment or were seeking a job. Let’s call those the Active men. The others we’ll call the Inactive men. That 95/5 ratio was as it had been for a while … but in the decades since something has happened. The Inactives steadily rose from 5% to near 12% today.

Apparently this is not due to just a lack of jobs – the employment rate goes up and down but the inactivity rate just goes up. Concurrent to the shift in manufacturing jobs off-shore have been other changes in society that feed into this change. The social security network has made it easier to not work. More competition from single mothers in the work force and a change in the types of jobs available from so called Manly jobs to work that anyone can do. With the rise of the internet, the hundred-plus channel Cable and home entertainment / gaming systems it has become cheaper and easier to fill one’s empty hours than ever before.

As I read the article I was picturing what happened to the North in England and wonder if that same type of bleak future with multi-generational unemployment is in the cards.

During my life I’ve gone through long periods of not being gainfully employed as a wage slave. During most of that time I didn’t stop working – I just stopped having a paying job. Kind of like my current existence: I have a income stream from pensions which has left me able to do a lot of community service style things that pay nothing or little. I won’t say I’m as fully engaged in my activities as I would if it were a ‘job’ but it leaves me feeling busy. And if I’m fooling myself I’m also doing a good job – a little over a year ago I got the Community Volunteer of the Year Award in my little town. (really there are quite a few people who do far more than I)

As to Manliness … one of the things I’ve learned is that many people identify themselves with their job. And society’s depiction of the roles played by men and women informs the self-identity people have. As many of the traditionally man-only jobs disappear and males find themselves unemployed has the depiction of men by our societal mirrors (movies, tv, books) shifted as well? Or are men still being pushed to be Men? And is that creating stress and angst in the those males that cannot fulfill those cultural imperatives? Are they losing their (traditional) Manliness as the article suggests?

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