There is a staggering crisis among American men, and it demands immediate national attention. That is the focus of an important new report recently released by Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
The report, “The State of the Working (And Non-Working) Man,” explains that the number of American men out of work today is greater than it was in the wake of Great Depression. And what makes this crisis even worse, is that their idleness is largely voluntary.
In 2022, there were seven million able-bodied men in the prime of life missing from the American labor force. The share of non-working men has more than tripled over the last 60 years. Millions more are under-employed and underpaid for their skills and labor.
The report explains, “labor-force participation among all men has fallen by nearly 20 percentage points, from a high of 87.4% in 1949 to 68 percent in July 2023.”
Where Did They Go?
Simply put, millions of men have simply lost the will to work. The report explains “this survey response points to a lack of purpose” among men adding “positive male identity is a casualty of cultural revolution” that has tacked “toxic” onto “masculinity” as its new modifier.
Sen. Rubio’s report correctly holds that “the cultural revolution of the past half-century has left our nation shell-shocked and our men adrift.” It is a tragedy with real consequences that “modern society offers men neither expectations nor respect—quite the opposite.”
A nation with increasing numbers of non-working men cannot continue. The implications of their idleness spread far beyond inability to earn an income. Working men toiling at difficult jobs producing essential goods are the backbone of society and family.
So What Can We Do About It?
Sen. Rubio’s office calls for eight major policy initiatives for getting American men back to work.
The first is rebuilding American industry as “deindustrialization was a key driver in the disappearance of well-paying jobs for men.”
Second is greater national investment in and appreciation for “America’s protectors.” These are jobs that appeal to the masculine nature to protect the innocent and punish evil doers. Jobs like police officers, military personnel, border-patrol agents and correctional officers, jobs that “mold and train their members to use their strength and authority for the good of society.”
Third is helping families break out of the “Two-Income Trap” that does not allow men to be the primary or sole breadwinner for their families. The report explains, “As we have seen, the increase in two-earner households has bid up the price of middle-class staples, such as homes in good school districts; it has also, unexpectedly, left many families less capable of weathering unexpected financial crises.”
Fourth, improve predictions in and preparations for workforce changes in critical industries. This will allow more men to be respond successfully to inevitable shifts in industrial employment evolutions.
Fifth, restore the dignity and ennobling nature of work in governmental welfare efforts.
Invest in Vocational Education
Sixth, increase government investment in vocational education for emerging young men. Federal spending on vocational education and job training has plummeted, from 12 percent of total K-12 spending in 1980 to a mere 3 percent today. And only a tiny fraction of the federal government’s annual $175 billion spent on secondary education goes to any kind of vocational education. Such education could be one of the most empowering efforts of government for millions of young men today.
Seventh, promote single-sex education that focuses on the unique ways boys and men learn. Such efforts would go far in helping educators understand and meet the learning needs and desires of American males.
Finally, encourage marriage for men. Sen. Rubio’s team recognizes the wisdom of important research conducted by scholars like Nobel prize winning economist and UC Berkeley professor George Akerlof who found many years ago that married men are good for the workforce.
According to Akerlof, “Married men are more attached to the labor force, they have less substance abuse, they commit less crime, are less likely to become the victims of crime, have better health, and are less accident prone.”
This revitalization of American masculinity is perhaps our nation’s most pressing need. Over and above government, it is the duty of the family itself, organizations like Focus on the Family and churches, schools and communities to help rebuild healthy, productive manhood.
Originally posted in The Stream.