All entries for Wednesday 20 July 2005

July 20, 2005

Lit review intro

The literature review is composed of two main parts, one dealing with research that investigates barriers to employment for older male workers, and the other dealing with research into the effects of unemployment on masculinities. By reviewing empirical and theoretical research relating to these two key areas I aim to map out a space amidst the intersecting dimensions of age, masculinity and unemployment in which my own research may be situated. The sources I have used are from a variety of academic disciplines and differ greatly in terms of depth, length, date of publication and critical quality. While the research linking unemployment and masculinities is mostly sociological, the section covering barriers to employment comprises literature relating to policy, employment law and government commissioned research.

Limitations of existing research

Haywood and Mac an Ghaill (2003: 36) warn that ‘examining the impact of unemployment on masculinity can unintentionally reinforce the notion that unemployment is simply a problem for men’, noting that the issue of unemployed women remains academically unexplored across Western Europe. Ginn and Arber (1996) concur with this point, claiming that focus has tended to fall on men’s early exit from the employment, while the exclusion of older women from the labour market is regarded as uninteresting and unproblematic. Conventional definitions of unemployment tend to be founded on the employment experiences of men, disregarding involuntary joblessness amongst women (Russell 1999: 208). Bruegel (2000) argues that although late 20th century commentators have increasingly described the issue of unemployment as a ‘male problem’ in Britain, women are still the losers in the workplace and suffer both lower wages and poorer working conditions. Although employment may be feminised in the sense of an increasing presence of women in work or even changes to the intrinsic nature of work itself, this does not necessarily imply a corresponding feminisation of power (Bruegel 2000: 79 – 80).

Focussing on the issue of male unemployment not only risks disregarding or obscuring the experiences of women in presuming men to be the 'implicit norm', but also constructs unemployed men as a homogeneous group, underplaying social and economic differences between men arising as a result of differing class, skill and educational positionings (Bruegel 2000: 81). Age is a further dimension that has been neglected by the burgeoning literature on masculinities, with older men largely omitted from literature about masculinities and unemployment (Arber, Davidson and Ginn 2003). In writing of a ‘crisis in masculinity’ in the world of work, commentators risk constructing masculine identity as a monolithic and unitary entity, failing to adequately problematise or deconstruct it (Willott and Griffin 1996: 78). Rather, there are many dimensions of difference that cut through the debate surrounding age, masculinities and unemployment, and in outlining relevant literature I aim to touch on as many of these as possible.

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