Thursday 22 Feb 2018 | 22:09 | SYDNEY
Thursday 22 Feb 2018 | 22:09 | SYDNEY

The 'he-cession'



24 June 2009 09:54

The new issue of Foreign Policy carries an article by Reihan Salam (who I interviewed in Washington in May) on the global economic crisis facing men. He says the decline in Western countries of male-dominated sectors of the economy and the rise of the service sector is well established, but the Great Recession is radically accelerating this trend:

More than 80 percent of job losses in the United States since November have fallen on men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the numbers are broadly similar in Europe, adding up to about 7 million more out-of-work men than before the recession just in the United States and Europe as economic sectors traditionally dominated by men (construction and heavy manufacturing) decline further and faster than those traditionally dominated by women (public-sector employment, healthcare, and education). All told, by the end of 2009, the global recession is expected to put as many as 28 million men out of work worldwide.

Long term, Salam argues the shift is inevitable and will have powerful economic and geopolitical consequences. Men will just have to work out how to cope with it, and their choices are adaptation or resistance. Salam says Russian and Chinese policy seems to be to reinforce the male-dominant sectors of the economy ('propping up macho'), whereas the US stimulus is weighted toward female-dominated sectors of the economy, such as education and healthcare.

Australia long ago chose the adaptation route, though it hasn't been without it's difficulties. I've always felt you could chart our awkward retreat from blue collar masculinity through the commercials of one of Australia's great working class brands, Victoria Bitter. Consider one the early ads, with that classic John Meillon voice-over:


And now a more modern version, which trashes the brand identity built over decades through the Meillon ads by parodying it:

But really, what choice did the brewer have? The drinkers depicted in the Meillon ads no longer exist. Unfortunately, they seem to have been replaced by oafish man-children who despise their nut-cracking wives. Well, that's progress for you.

You may also be interested in...