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Men: The Decline of the Breadwinner

The main role for men is the one of primary income-earner and breadwinner in the family. In all 19 countries in the study, income generation for the family was the first and most likely mentioned definition of a man’s role in the family and of a good husband:

“A good husband is a good provider of things such as food, clothes” (Afghanistan). “A good husband is one who provides for everything in the house. He pays all the bills” (Burkina Faso).

The provider role also influences men’s perceptions of their social status and power:

“[A man's] income is the biggest and the most important for functioning of the household. It gives him self-respect” (Serbia).

Men’s gains in power largely depend on economic conditions in their countries and communities, particularly economic growth and the functioning of local and national labor markets.

“A man should be powerful. But how can he be powerful when the village is undergoing such a huge crisis. Power means financial security,” said a man in Serbia.

Employment-based status and power help those with appropriately masculine jobs to remain buoyant, sometimes, to the point of arrogance and ostentation.

“[A] man at the top step of the ladder has big houses and a lot of wetland for farming. He will have herds of cows and can afford cow butter for cooking, and tea. His farms are more mechanized and he has many people working for him. He is a proud man and egoistic,” said a rural man in Bhutan.

Across the world, men’s dependence on employment to assess their identity and self-worth makes them vulnerable to economic volatility:

“Men are affected more than women [by unemployment], which leads to frustration and family problems and, in some cases, leads to violence by men against women and children, and may lead to illness.” (West Bank and Gaza).



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