John Bruton

Opinions & Ideas

Category: unemployment in Ireland


90% of parents who are rearing children on their own are women, and average pay of women in the Irish workforce is below that of men.  This is despite the fact that more young women than men are likely to have a third level qualification.
The Irish Central Statistics Office published an interesting statistical analysis of differences between men and women in 2011.
Irish boys are 50% more likely to leave school without a qualification, than Irish girls are -12% of boys do so, as against 8% of girls.
But only in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria do girls outnumber boys among early school leavers.
The unemployment rate for men in 2011 was 17.5% in Ireland, as against 10.4% for women.
Ireland is unusual in this respect. Only Lithuania and Latvia had a similarly large gap between male and female rates of unemployment.
Since the recession began, there has been triple the rate of growth in male, as in female unemployment in Ireland, which is most unusual in European terms.
The higher unemployment rate for men is probably  linked to the  fact that , in the 25 to 34 age group, 50% of Irish women have a third level qualification, whereas 40% of Irish men in that age group do.
It is also probably linked to the disproportionate size of the construction sector in Ireland during the  boom. But Spain had a similar construction boom, without this difference between male and female unemployment rates arising.
In Ireland, men are more likely to go to gaol than women. Although Ireland’s rate of imprisonment is only one seventh that in the United States of America, it three times that of India.
In Ireland, eight times as many males are in prison as females. This is because males are more likely to commit the sort of crime that attracts terms of imprisonment, but also, to the extent that environmental factors induce criminality, it suggests that young men face a more difficult environment. 
This is probably linked to the fact that Irish boys tend to leave school earlier, and with poorer qualifications, than Irish girls,  but there are bound to be other explanations as well.
Boys and girls are different.
The onset of puberty comes two years earlier to girls, at 11 years of age, than it does to boys which is at 13 years of age. I have been told that that process of puberty inhibits educational development for a whole year in each case.
But a setback in education may be a lot less disruptive in our current educational system at the age of 11, than it is at the age of 13, which is the age at which some boys may begin to  contemplate dropping out of education altogether, with disastrous consequences for their long term earning ability.  I do not know if this has any link to the fact that males are three times as likely to be killed in road accidents as females.
These issues deserve to be studied.



My wife, Finola made an interesting speech last week to the Iona Institute, an Irish Think Tank that focuses on family policy.  She drew attention to the increase in unemployment in Ireland and to the fact that  this has fallen disproportionately on  men and boys, a  phenomenon that does not seem to appear in other  European countries.
I believe the  longterm social consequences of this will be severe, particularly the way it will affect families and the upbringing of future generations.  
Here is what she said;
“I would like to raise today a very important social issue whose consequences will be felt for years to come and which remarkably has attracted no attention from the media, academics or Politicians in this country.
The weight of this recession both in Ireland and the United States has fallen most heavily upon men. In the United States men have suffered roughly three quarters of the 8 million job losses since the beginning of 2008.  There, male dominated industries ( construction, manufacturing) have been badly hit while health care and education – which employ women, have held up relatively well.
In Ireland, the male unemployment figure is 17.8%, whereas it is 10.9% for women.  This figure is in sharp contrast to all other European countries, where the rates of unemployment are roughly equal. It is also in contrast to the situation in Ireland in 2007, when male and female unemployment rates were virtually the same.  This difference is found among all age groups .  Of the under 25 year olds who are unemployed in Ireland 233,000 are male and 123,000 are female.
Unemployment is difficult for both men and women. For men, whose self identified role in society is defined by what they do outside the home, unemployment is particularly traumatic. Various studies have described the erosion of their identities, the isolation of being jobless and the indignities of downward mobility. Then there is the financial and emotional strain which can corrode family life.
Men seem to be more vulnerable than women in how unemployment affects them.  This gender imbalance in the unemployment figures in this country provides a profound challenge to marriage. Kathryn Edin, a professor of Public Policy at Harvard and an expert in family life, was quoted recently in The Atlantic as saying that marital relationships, where men are jobless, are often filled with conflict. Even today, she says men’s identities are far more defined by their work than women’s and both men and women become extremely uncomfortable when men’s work goes away.
Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, put it starkly when he said “ If men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer”
In case one might think that there is a lower female unemployment rate in this country because girls are emigrating more, emigration from Ireland among males is about 30% higher than among women.
Some may argue that this is due to the fact that Irish men suffer disproportionally from the construction industry collapse. Spain has also had a similar construction industry collapse, and the gender difference in unemployment there is not like that in Ireland at all.
What conclusions can we draw from this?
The first is that the Irish Educational system has done a much better job preparing young women for the job market, than it has young men.
I suggest that we need a serious study of why Irish education is failing young men, and what we can do about it. Clearly the problem is different here to that in all other EU countries.  We should look at what is good about the educational experience of girls in Ireland, and see if it can be adapted for boys too.
I think also that the gender studies departments of our universities and regulatory bodies ought to  turn their attention to this Irish problem.  Gender studies need a new focus.
I suggest also that Irish men and boys also have to ask themselves some hard questions.
Are they making the right subject and career choices?
Are they prepared to think differently about their ideal job?
Can they learn something from the relative success of women?
Finally, I am calling on the National Economic and  Social Council to initiate a study to find out why unemployment is so severely affecting men in this country.
We must be willing to discuss this issue on the basis of its practical effect on family life, in the here and now, rather than on the basis of some ideological principle about equality.
The resources going into Gender Studies should perhaps be devoted as much to the number of men on the dole as to the number of women in boardrooms.”
I would welcome inputs on how this problem might be analysed

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