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It’s not a man’s world any more

An automated production line at VW’s factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

It’s “no picnic” being a man these days, says Andreas Kluth in Bloomberg. The US saw a record 100,000 drug deaths this year, about 70% of them men. The Chinese government is looking at ways to strengthen the “yang spirit” associated with masculinity, as Beijing worries that the nation’s boys have become “effeminate”. But perhaps the most important “vector of change” for men is the rise of robots. The biggest losers as a result of automation are the blue-collar manufacturing workers who are being replaced with machines – “and those workers are overwhelmingly men”. In the service sector, where “people skills” are prized and women thrive, robots aren’t yet a threat.

The result is a narrowing of the pay gap, which is, in general, a good thing. But it has side effects, chief among them a decline in marriage. Back when “the lads made a killing and the lasses made a pittance”, it made sense to have a working husband and a homebound wife. Now women earn more, so they don’t gain as much from tying themselves to men. There’s nothing “inherently good or bad” about these shifting trends, but change is always hard. Men losing roles that their fathers and grandfathers considered masculine seem at particular risk of radicalisation by far-right demagogues or misogynistic “incel” groups. Perhaps men will learn to love the “evolution of masculinity”. In the meantime, the “flux in manhood” is a dangerous thing.

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