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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
Warning over mens health

By Simon Pitts, producer of a BBC World Service series on the changing role of men.

All over the world men are beginning to face up to a period of unprecedented change and uncertainty. According to Australian psychologist Steve Biddulph, in terms of health, men have become a bit like a third world country.

They die earlier than women, they commit suicide three times more often and they routinely make up 90% of the prison population.

These are figures that we take for granted and yet there are serious questions behind them.

As Dr Biddulph and other people in what's becoming known as a "Men's Movement", are beginning to argue, men who go out to work and ignore their families have often been failing their children.

All over the world men are finding that their idea of what it is to be a man is changing - and the future isn't always looking bright.

Young men vulnerable

By working long hours young children grow up with an absent father and an embittered mother - forced to cope on her own.

Job centre
Men are struggling to find a new role
Without proper role models, young men in particular are vulnerable, and many commentators explain anti-social behaviour such as gang violence with reference to a lack of proper fathering.

Men haven't been very flexible in their home/work balance but according to management guru Charles Handy, they are having to change as the economy is changing.

The new economic growth areas are made up of jobs in which women's skills excel and men are finding themselves out of work as their wives' skills are wanted more.

Intolerable pressure

In Kenya, for example, where there is a massive restructuring of the civil service involving mass redundancies, many men are finding the pressure intolerable and women become the breadwinners.

Woman using a computer
Women are seen as more adept with new technology
Without work as the core part of their identity, men often feel at a loss and uncertain of their place in the world.

The consequences of this loss can be catastrophic, with physical violence and even murder the horrific end result.

At work, women are seen to be more flexible, more consistent, and better able to juggle many tasks. At home men are being seen as poor fathers and emotionally distant.

Yet in the new economy there are signs of hope for men.

The redefinition of men's roles means that men have a chance to re-think what their proper role should be.

We'd like to hear your experiences and your views of the changing role of men in this week's edition of Talking Point, a radio phone-in and webcast produced in conjunction with BBC World Service

Click here for more details of how you can take part.

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