Despite what men would like to believe about themselves or what they may read in popular media, many still derive the majority of their self-esteem from their employment. So when the world goes through a major recession and unemployment dramatically rises the impact on an affected man’s ego can be devastating. Although there has been some change in the behaviour of men over the last fifty years. Men are now more likely to be involved domestic chores, changing nappies and look after their skin and general health. However research abdicates that the fundamentals of how men perceive themselves has gone relatively unchanged over the last one hundred years.
When a man becomes unemployed he may fall back into his worst hyper-masculine impulses. He may begin to act-out traditional stereotypical male behaviour, instead of becoming further involved with family and home. Research suggest that unemployed men are more likely to spend their time; sleeping, snacking, or channel surfing rather than doing more housework and parenting. In contrast, unemployed women spend twice as much time parenting and doing chores.
Historical research has shown that when men become unemployed their first response is to find solace in alcohol or drugs, railing against women, and hiding themselves away. Many men are socially conditioned to believe that they should be self-contained, unemotional, stoic, and career driven. However unquestioning acceptance of male social conditioning may in fact be leading to increased levels of anxiety and depression. It is possible that the future for many in the West may be one of underemployment and full-time employment may only be available to a select few. If this is a possible scenario, how will the future underemployed manage their self-esteem and self-worth?
A good step for men would be to stop defining themselves purely in terms of their employment and career success. Also it is important for women to feel comfortable that men in the future may not be the principle income provider. Research also suggests that for many men they feel that when they are unemployed they are less attractive to their partners, as one unemployed man stated, “When the money goes, love flies out of the window.”
Christopher Swane - Relationship Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington New Zealand