Research on gender inequality tends to focus on issues disadvantaging women. A study published earlier this year suggests issues disadvantaging men have been understudied.
Areas where men fair badly compared to women are life (and healthy life) expectancy, health spending, suicide, pension age, compulsory military service, harsher punishments for the same crimes, prison numbers, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, underperformance in education, occupational deaths and overrepresentation in risky and physically taxing occupations such as front-line military duty, firefighting, mining and construction.
In Switzerland, the difference between male and female life expectancy is nearly 4 years, while the pension age is 64 for women and 65 for men. Boys and young men make up three quarters of Switzerland’s suicides, and all able-bodied men must serve in the military or pay an extra income tax. For Swiss women it’s optional. Regarding education, 54% of women in Switzerland are tertiary educated compared to 49% of men, a gap of 5%.
To take account of the disadvantages of being male, the authors of the study mentioned above recommend looking at gender inequalities using a measure called the Basic Index of Gender Inequality (BIGI), which looks at educational opportunities in childhood, healthy life expectancy and overall life satisfaction. Using this measure men fair worse than women in 91 of the 134 countries studied – Switzerland is one of the countries where men are worse off than women, a result driven by lower healthy life expectancy and lower overall life satisfaction.
Using BIGI, women are heavily disadvantaged in some countries, however these are nearly all developing countries with low Human Development (HDI) scores. In the developed world it is generally men who are disadvantaged.
None of this means women are not disadvantaged. Instead it suggests that both men and women are disadvantaged, sometimes in similar ways, sometimes in different ways, sometimes at the same time, sometimes at different times.
Has the politics of our era blinded us to the challenges and disadvantages faced by men?
What do you think?