Men and Work

Sweating Away Was Yesterday

Work in gainful employment is a central aspect in boy’s, men’s and father’s self-perception. And still today, it is considered as the main social duty of a man. Current trends in economy and in society question this presumption of a ‘normal’ male role model. Traditional role models lose their relevance or, under the present conditions, are hard to fulfill. This is specially the case with the role of a man as “breadwinner”.

New models for life and partnership appear. They no longer define men solely through paid work or according to their capacity to subsist a family. In order to face these challenges and changes, boys and men need new adequate resources and support systems. The project “Men and Work – Father, partner, employee” initialized by the Federal Forum Men, responds to this demand. It offers an important contribution for the development of a modern and sustainable policy for equal opportunities.

Work – is this really all to strive for?

Being asked about their personal significance of work, a lot of men mention as main criteria to “sustain a family” and “being needed”. Most of them dedicate their work to the family, only few to personal reputation, joy at work or to the fact that work is the most important issue in life. Still, paid work is the male form of caring. Becoming unemployed, men with this role model are deeply damaged in their self-perception. Often they lack own ideas and fantasy for alternatives. In these situations, many men experience a loss of perspectives and enormous stress.
The fundamental sectoral change in the environment of paid work cause profound consequences for traditional gender roles. Traditional male workplaces mainly in primary and secondary sector decline, whereas the traditional female dominated tertiary service sector increases. Although, in tertiary sector the number of employed men continuously increase, in case of habits of occupational choice and self-conception still a lot of men remain in personal emotions of insecurity and orientation problems.

As a result of political decisions in the labour economy and new employer’s strategies, traditional working conditions become more and more precarious. Workplaces convert from full-time to part-time employment and temporary employment grow.
Atypical employment such as limited contracts, labour leasing, minijobs, hands-on training and other precarious working forms make it difficult for men to develop long-term perspectives on life and have negative effects on family planning and family stability. An increasing number of men are no longer able to fulfill the breadwinner role model. For those the risk for poverty constantly rises.

o    Sectoral changes and deindustrialization modify traditional perceptions of care role models of men.
o    Occupational choice and self-perception of men only slowly adapt to this change.
o    A future-orientated men’s policy offers men support in the present transition of life and work environments.
o    It advocates equal opportunities to secure individual livelihood and for equal pay.
o    A solidary men’s policy offers new orientations in life planning of men through support systems on local and neighborhood level.

Men, good life and the ‘whole of economy’

Men no longer define themselves solely through paid work. Many of them can imagine to work part-time and wish to have a division of paid and family work based on partnership. Moreover, traditional mind patterns based on gender hierarchies crumble. In mind sets and actual living conditions of men, a distinct trend towards “active fatherhood” arises.
The debate about gender roles in paid work and private caring systems like child care, care of family members or friendships reveal the centuries-old contradiction between models of market economy and subsisting care economy. That is: Economy considered as male connoted market economy is detached from social and ecological constraints.

Modern men’s policy puts the focus on the “whole of economy”. It places emphasis on precautionary and responsible cooperation, which values paid and unpaid work in all sectors of life and society and pursues sustainable economic relationships. It lobbies for the self-evident option for men to decide on a suitable quantum of paid work e.g. when becoming father or taking over care duties. Men’s policy motivates companies to implement family-friendly structures and cultures, to support employees with their care responsibilities and to relieve stress of employees with flexible working time models rather than to intensify time pressure.

To accept one’s own feelings of vulnerability and fragility is a big challenge for traditional male role models and stereotypes. It demands for strong and trustable private and societal support systems for men in order to encounter own alternative role models in an open manner, to critically deal with work related stress and to fulfill the wish for relations in equal partnerships.

o    An egalitarian men’s policy needs a family and partnership oriented concept.
o    It campaigns for equal recognition of both, paid and unpaid work in all sectors of life and society.
o    It motivates companies to organize options for all employees to adequately arrange care responsibilities with working time.
o    Short full-time, family-orientated working time, new norms on a 30-hours week are important headings for work to secure individual and family livelihood.
o    Men’s policy acknowledges the whole course of individual life.
o    It encourages strong and solid support systems for men of all societal groups and generations.
o    This kind of successful equal opportunities policy brings in sight the plurality of men’s concepts of life.
o    It accompanies and supports men in all kinds of care responsibilities in life.

Labour and other kinds of duties

A lot of men share the demand of their partners for equal opportunities. But as soon as it comes to practical implementation in family- life and at work, the traditional role models return to the field. Demand and practice – mind patters and actual distribution of gender roles are hard to arrange on individual, interpersonal and structural levels. The pay gap between men and women shows a complex syndrome of gender differences and draws a continuous line through the whole working life biography.

Although mind patterns and life reality of men clearly show a trend to active fatherhood, working environments still put pressure on men for 100 percent availability. Flexibility in working time and place even intensify this pressure.
At the same time we can see a tendency in the opposite direction: Social disparities such as poverty, migration status, and low level of education and qualification let an increasing number of men fail to fulfill the general male role model of a breadwinner. Economic development, decline of the welfare state, increasing poverty and precarious life situations alienate men’s identities.

Diverse concepts of family and non-family life are normal today. Different combinations of families are linked to different forms of housing. Unfortunately, plurality does not at once mean “nice and colourful diversity” (Andrea Maihofer). The break-up of rigid conventional constraints of the middle-class nuclear family on the one hand offers a chance for increased individual choice for life performance. On the other hand, liberty brings less orientation and more uncertainty.

o    Men’s policy orientates on gender equality, supports economic equal opportunities for women and new alternative life concepts for men.
o    Men’s policy supports companies and organisations to establish part-time models and a culture of self-determined flexibility.
o    A transformative men’s policy pursues the structural integration of equal opportunities into the dialogue between generations.
o    It advocates the integration of reconciliation of work and family into strategies of corporate social responsibility of companies beyond existing legal obligations.
o    A generational sound men’s policy sensitizes for all different demands of men during their individual course of life.
o    It explicitly addresses the existential constraints of men coming from different status groups, nationalities, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
o    It promotes organisations and measures which allow men in separation to stay in contact with their children.

Work and active fatherhood

The decision to become parents evokes lasting effects on a partnership. Therein gainful employment plays a central role. Men increasingly wish to accompany their children in their development. But the gap between family and labour demands is dramatic: Times and life rhythm of all family members clearly differ and contradict. Whereas one part of working life runs on regular tracks and, therefore hinders frequent daily contacts in family, another part of working life is considerably flexible organised.
Beyond all differences on how men organise their everyday life with employment, one thing counts by all means: In every section of employed life, men with children work more than those without children.

Income and care conditions as well as deficient access to paid full-time work for women with children keep single men in main responsibility for the sustentation of family members. This situation refuses an intensive care of men for their small children. Their life circumstances move in the tension field of financial security and obligation for full-time work on the one side and having only short time available to integrate child care in their working schedule on the other.

Neither staff department and managers nor special interest groups, in general, are sufficiently skilled to answer adequately to the demands for men who want to reconcile work and family care in leading positions. Few or no support from these directions is even more effecting, because companies do not have any contact person for men.

o    A gender sensible men’s policy abolishes gender stereotypic working and caring conditions. Furthermore, it supports men in reconciling work and family.
o    It supports the implementation of flexible strategies for separated and single parents.
o    It enhances consultancy for single fathers on local and neighborhood level.
o    A gender sensible men’s policy motivates companies, organisations and interest groups to implement a staffing policy, which is conscious about family and fathers concerns.
o    It motivates organisations and companies to make visible leading male managers who are active fathers and reconcile work with family.
o    A gender sensible men’s policy puts on the agenda a care- and reconciliation-oriented management culture.


The in average shorter life expectation of men is closely connected with their daily life-styles, habits and social relations. The consequences of many factors of work in Germany, in general, affect the health situation of men stronger than those of women: higher labour-force participation rate, longer employment history, higher rate of illness in risky jobs and the comprehension of work as central element for social identity and male gender role. In addition, competition, time pressure, concentration of work, insecure employment and unemployment are strong drivers of many physical and psychological strains of illness.

Men on higher income levels, on average, live eleven years longer than men coming from lower income levels. Poor men often perceive themselves as less capable to organise their daily-life affairs than men with higher incomes. Also, people who live in poverty have more health risky habits than others. The interrelation between poverty and health continuously increases.
Self-efficacy strengthens resilience – the individual competency to cope and constructively deal with conflictive or uncertain situations rather to avoid them. Men with high resilience are optimistic, convinced of own skills and competencies, have goals and visions and are appreciative and empathic for themselves and others.

However, a high quality of the workplace does not necessarily guarantee a high degree of wellbeing. Men with strong support systems in their daily-life significantly more often describe themselves as physically and mentally healthy unlike those men with low or very little support.

o    A precautionary men’s policy advocates for a development of health promoting environments for men of all status groups.
o    For men of all societal status groups it claims for adequate measures and offers for prevention and health promotion.
o    A health promoting men’s policy mediates and networks: it actively cooperates and links with relevant stakeholders in public health care and relevant policy fields aiming at widespread social integration and health promoting living environments.
o    It supports workplace health promotion, which empowers the mental stability and physical constitution of all employees.
o    Men’s policy which relates to health promotion and self-efficacy acts proactive and preventive: Together with all relevant professional und civil society actors it, firstly campaigns for a health promoting environment at schools, companies and in the neighborhood (setting approach). Secondly, it takes part in the implementation of integral health promotion at workplace.

Men and care

Rising life expectancy for men and therefore becoming a growing part of total population, care work for men increase especially in long lasting marriages and relationships. A great deal of men take care responsibility from the age of 75 upwards – mainly for their partners.
The share of men in domestic care covers one third from the total number of caring citizens. And not only with rising age: Ten percent of the caring men are responsible for the care of family members besides their employment. To disrupt paid work in order to take over care responsibility for these men means to bring their career in danger and lose income. Caring men, therefore strongly need a framework, which enables for a reconciliation of paid work and care.

Men early ask for professional nursing, especially in the case of physical care duties. They look after accompanying logistic and search for consultation regarding financial and technical support. But when it comes to their own mental and physical state, men rather seldom make use of support and help services. Men experience care work as radical break in their life and with moments of emotional eruptions. They experience the loneliness in a situation another adult person is absolutely dependent on them.

Despite any legal acknowledgement care still remains a private affair. Whereas in family children become more and more independent, in contrary elderly family members increasingly deserve support. The continuous multi-level stress through labour, family and care remains structurally accepted. The experience of losing performance and life quality and having the feeling of not coming up to all daily tasks often end up in depression.

At the moment, there are only few examples of organizational cultures, which embed strategies for a reconciliation of work and care. Still, legislation largely released economy from its responsibility.

o    Care is a reconciliation topic.
o    Men’s policy advocates for more societal acknowledgement for men who do care work.
o    It sensitizes and supports professional institutions facilities and organizations in the field of care service and proposes publicity for accompanying, consulting and education measures.
o    A care-oriented men’s policy, in particular, encourages young men to become active in care professions.
o    Men’s policy contributes to institutionally implement networking and accompaniment of caring men on local level.
o    Especially, it sensitizes professional institutions, facilities and organizations to acknowledge the group of caring sons.
o    In order to secure existential assurance men’s policy demands funding und assurance agencies to accept care time as pension relevant.
o    It motivates companies to establish a care-sensitive organizational culture which puts in sight male caring employees.

Work and transition to retirement

The start of retirement or unemployment at the end of the individual working life confronts men with the challenge to find new activities and purposes in life. Often, the transition happens abrupt and seamless.
Leaving the workplace often reveals that personal relationships and professional contacts were mostly related to work. Suddenly men are confronted with the task to redefine their status in their family and social networks. In order to manage the transition phase from work-life into private life successfully, men need competent and adequate accompaniment.

Elder men have a big treasure trove of professional know-how and work experience. For many men the transfer of their knowledge to younger company employees stands for acknowledgement, appreciation and sustainability of their work.  Strategies for human resource development in the company should maintain a transfer of know-how from leaving colleagues e.g. through consultancy agreements. In this sense, individual plans for personal development beyond employment can connect to educational demands of the organization.
The existential safeguard of men after retirement has to be guaranteed. The Federal Forum Men cooperates with societal and lobbying actors in order to develop labour and bond market measures which avoid poverty for men.

o    The Federal Forum Men demands for human resource management strategies, which are adjusted to the course of life of employees. This approach should give men of all cultural backgrounds and personal living environments the possibility to design the transition from paid work to retirement in a feasible and adjusted way.
o    The Forum advocates for diverse education and recreation offers for elder men having different life concepts and living environments.
o    Men’s policy aims at human resource strategies, which are oriented at the course of life of men and which relate individual perspectives for retirement with organizational personal management.
o    Men’s policy operates in the interplay of all societal and lobby actors and supports labour and bond market strategies for social safeguard of elder men after they officially left workplace.

Empowerment of boys

In public space, boys often are perceived as a problematic group. This perception starts in kindergarden and still remains the guiding theme during school and apprenticeship. It is only little visible, that boys grow up and find themselves in diverse societal circumstances. They are at home in different milieus and life environments. “The” boys do not exist just as little do “the” men.

Boys strive for individuality and peer group membership. Therefore, it is important for boys and young men today to orientate and position themselves independently within roles of being a boy and being a man. They need reliable services, structures, places and persons, who represent caring perspectives and positive examples for personal self-care. Formal and informal education has to strengthen cooperation. It should decouple “success” in school from “capability” for work. In fact, education should support an everyday compatible kind of school knowledge and should open for new perspectives on so-called traditional men’s jobs.

With their job choice boys try to maintain their individual gender role especially for themselves. Job orientation therefore has to be an active element of life planning in order to enable boys to make conscious decisions for their further life paths.
Peer groups are the most important spots for boys to approve their masculinity without being controlled by supervising adults. Peer groups mirror the life-style of persons of their own age, which boys are willing to accept and by whom they are accepted. Connected to this, peer groups are those fields where boys review and practice their conceptions of desire and future partnership models.

However, understandings of hetero normative regimes within peer groups of boys often do not meet the expectations of girls. Boys in peer groups often orientate on concepts of hegemonic masculinity, which appear rather counterproductive when it come to make contacts with girls.

These ambivalences request high flexibility from boys. They need benevolent and appreciative surroundings for personal development, which allow them to discover their sexual identity and gender role. This especially counts for institutional education in the field of child and youth welfare services. Also home institutions need professional concepts in order to cope with sexual offense towards boys.

o    The Federal Forum Men supports services from social-pedagogy actors which motivate boys to participate in society in an active and responsible way.
o    It advocates for gender sensitization in professional vocational and further training.
o    It promotes offers for sexual education, which support boys in developing a personal sexual identity as well as balancing self-determination and partnership.
o    Together with actors from child and youth welfare services as well as youth work, the Federal Forum Men campaigns for the development of professional concepts in order to cope with sexual harassment and offense towards boys.
o    In summary, the Federal Forum Men is engaged for stronger elucidation and medical care for boys as well as enhanced gender competency of female professionals in dealing with education and personal development of boys.

Work and organisation cultures

Profession is an element of personal appreciation and at the same time an instrument to secure ones existential subsistence. Therefore, workplace has a double role: it is the place to be active and to participate in performing society and structure for financial security.
For these issues, institutions and companies provide coherent structures. They are in dramatic change at the moment.

A lot of questions occur according to quality of work, performance of leading and decision making processes or reconciliation of work and private life. It is difficult to find answers to this under the current situation of societal change. Well-known categories such as work and economy, organizational structure and process-orientated organisation no longer provide satisfying answers and adequate solutions. Men and work? This relationship is in the flux. Within the interplay of actors from politics and civil society companies and organisations play a central role.

Partnerships no longer naturally orientate on the breadwinner role model. Especially the acknowledgement of reconciliation needs for men and the renunciation of constant availability at workplace are indicators for a family friendly company policy. With regard to child care, men in companies and organisations need family friendly father and personal policies.

Men with care responsibility need reliable and flexible time structures at workplace. Additionally, they need integration in and exchange with accompanying support structures such as nursing service or consultancy institutions. These are important preconditions for a successful reconciliation of care obligations and work. Companies have to communicate their services and measurements for reconciliation of work and family directly, transparent and low-threshold to fathers.

To sum up: The main aim is the implementation of an equal opportunity strategy which integrates familial and individual reconciliation with profession and career development. This requires special contact persons for men in the companies. They can be special agents for men or fathers, who inform men about flexible work possibilities, mentoring- and coaching programs or organize father networks, in order to strengthen male employees in their roles as fathers and make fatherhood visible inside the organisation.

Diverse partnership models require appropriate diverse working environments. The job of society is to negotiate limits of stress and quality standards for good working conditions as well as to strengthen competency, work sovereignty and the potential for self-care of all employees.

o    On governmental level a societal negotiated culture of care initiates models, which help men to take over care responsibility without losing their jobs, risking poverty among elderly or having to leave the job for good.
o    Municipalities are central actors for cooperation on local level for the reconciliation of work and family.
o    Actors of the economic system have to consolidate this cooperation in promoting dual-careers measures. In doing so, companies and organisations are able to address and acknowledge those parents in families who follow their partner to a new residence.
o    Professional institutions and agencies in the environment of civil society engagement accompany and consult companies in order to build up support systems for their employees.
o    A care-oriented men’s policy motivates for the concept of a “caring community” in order to reconcile individual life concepts, life quality and social integration for all members of a local community.