06 April 2011 #Employment
Has feminism negatively impacted working class men? According to Universities Minister, David Willetts, speaking before the government`s social mobility strategy report, yes.
Asked what was to blame for a lack of social mobility, the Daily Telegraph quoted him saying: "The feminist revolution in its first-round effects was probably the key factor" and that "Feminism trumped egalitarianism". He reportedly continued that women`s progress into higher education and senior roles within the workplace had led to fewer opportunities for ambitious working class men.
Despite these comments, Mr Willetts made it clear that he did in fact support the move of women into the workplace and higher education.
Whether his opinion is actually correct has been the subject of much debate. Based on figures published in the Labour Force Survey, the employment rate for women aged 16 to 59 rose from 9 million (56%) in 1971 to 13 million (73%) in 2004 so there is no doubt that the number of female workers in the UK has increased significantly. Further, figures published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills showed that in 2008-09, 51% of young women entered higher education, compared with 40% of young men.
But just because women are getting more opportunities, does this necessarily mean fewer opportunities for men?
An article on the BBC website quotes feminist writer Kate Saunders, as saying "So many things have changed, not just the number of women in the workplace. Years ago many working class men used to work in the factory at the bottom of their street, it just doesn`t happen like that anymore and that`s not the fault of women. They aren`t to blame for things like the decline of the manufacturing industry in this country." She may be correct. According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) the number of jobs in the manufacturing sector dropped from over 7 million in 1978 to just 2.5 million in 2010.
Alan Manning, Professor of Economics at LSE agrees. He is also quoted by the BBC as saying "The deterioration in employment opportunities among young men was primarily the consequence of the decline in manufacturing. It`s not the case that all these apprenticeships were suddenly taken by lots of young women. It`s that the manufacturing jobs just weren`t there anymore."