Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

Before and beyond the Great Financial Crisis: Men and Education, Labour Market and Well-Being Trends and Issues in New Zealand

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

Before and beyond the Great Financial Crisis: Men and Education, Labour Market and Well-Being Trends and Issues in New Zealand

Article excerpt

Key Words: Gendered education, educational achievement, labour market participation trends


This paper provides an overview of a research area in which there is scant research and limited impact on public policy; namely men and the issues they face concerning their education, participation in the labour market and their well-being and trends in New Zealand. Men have had lower levels of educational achievements compared to women across primary, intermediate and secondary schools for some time and this has become a long-term, embedded pattern. This has subsequently influenced tertiary education where the current dearth of domestic male students has become noticeable in several fields (including some concerning ethnicity patterns). The labour market trends have recorded two rather contradictory patterns: on one hand, some traditional occupational and industry gender patterns have been remarkable slow to change while other gender patterns, particular in service and professional occupations, have recorded a dramatic transformation in recent decades. Finally, men's poor well-being, such as their high rates of suicide, incarceration, (particularly among young men), and work-related deaths and sickness, needs to be a public policy concern.


There have been significant changes in gender participation patterns in education and paid employment over several decades, and these changes have had widespread economic, social and well-being effects. While most of the research has focused on women and their situation, this paper will predominantly focus on trends and issues associated with men. The reasons for focusing on men (as opposed to women) are that there have been considerable changes in men's educational attainment and participation in the labour market and these changes will have wide-ranging impacts. Moreover, the education, labour market and well-being issues associated with men have often been bypassed or downplayed in the gender literature.

While some studies take a rather inflammatory or hostile approach to new gender participation patterns, this paper will take a more descriptive approach since there is still - even amongst gender researchers - a considerable lack of understanding of basic trends and issues associated with men. In particular, the paper will focus on New Zealand trends and debates. It will also raise concerns when it comes to the dearth of thinking and research into practical 'solutions' in New Zealand. These concerns are even more alarming when we consider the poor rates of well-being among a growing number of men, particularly groups of boys, and the major implications that these have for our society.

While this paper focuses on men, it is important to acknowledge that there are still considerable educational, labour market and well-being issues for women (Dye, Rossouw & Pacheco, 2012). The very slow adjustment in gender patterns amongst highly paid jobs and board positions has been a mainstay in recent research and media reports (e.g. Black, 2012; Human Rights Commission, 2012) and it is an indictment of the current New Zealand society. While these powerful and well-paid positions are important, they only represent a fraction of overall jobs and positions, and there are many more women clustered in traditional and/or low paying occupations and in atypical employment arrangements. As with male labour market trends and issues, until recently there has been too little research into the work experiences of these groups of women. Finally, many men and women will be affected by the post-2008 punitive changes to social welfare benefits, statutory minima and employment rights in New Zealand (see New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations 36(3), Fletcher, Hanna & Anderson, 2012; Rasmussen & Anderson, 2010).

The paper will first address the educational gender patterns which show that, although both sexes have increased their level of educational participation, the educational achievements of women have leaped that of men. …

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