A January 23, 2007 report by the Australian Productivity Commission – Men Not at Work: An Analysis of Men Outside the Labour Force – interested me a great deal. Before saying why, be warned that this piece features another of my rants and will no doubt be offensive to some.

I read about the study in a January 24 article in the Age newspaper. It acknowledges that there is a relationship between men who are unemployed and men who are single, and suggests that there is no simple causal factor linking the two. Rather, there is a complex correlation between singledom, unemployment and other social factors, such as education, in the lives of men described as “underachievers”.

I’ll be blunt and say that the dumber someone is, the less they are able to function in our complex information society and economy.

The “village idiot” was a stock figure in medieval and early industrial stories. In pre-industrial days, though, an able-bodied person, living in a tightly knit society where economic, extended family and social roles merged, may have been able to be a contributing member of society.

This has changed in contemporary western liberal democratic countries:

Today we live in a society where economic roles dominate other roles, where the extended family is reduced to an exchange of Christmas cards with cousins (and even ex-spouses) and where the movers and shakers of society can, indeed, afford to remove themselves from the moved and shaken.

The endless chatter about inequality, deprivation, lack of education, and so on from welfare providers never seems to recognise that people are born with different abilities and skills, and differing levels of capacity in various areas, including intelligence, literacy, numeracy and social interaction.

Basically, poverty, educational failure and social isolation are the result of low intelligence, not the reverse:

many social and economic problems are disproportionately found among people with little education, but the culprit for their educational deficit is often low intelligence.

It is disappointing, therefore, that the report only mentions intellectual disabilities as a factor contributing to men’s unemployment. But when does low intelligence (within a so-called ‘normal’ distribution) become an intellectual disability?

From my reading in this area, there is as yet no standard by which impaired social functioning – impaired social intelligence can be determined. Without such a measure, there is no way to identify who may benefit from educational and employment services (those who have the capacity to improve their lives after use of these services) from those who have no such capacity, although they may have no obvious or previously identified disability.

There is no point in delivering expensive services to someone who is incapable of benefiting from them. Governments must find other strategies to integrate such people into society, or at least to minimise their economic inefficiency and negative impact on society. It is known that, with the exception of crimes that reward levels of intellectual expertise, like white-collar crime and forgery, persons with lower IQ scores are more likely to offend than those with higher IQ scores.

Another question is how this relates to unemployed women. Because many women cease employment while having and raising children, their participation in the workforce is measured very differently. Being out of the workforce does not equal unemployment.

Low intelligence men are basically an anomoly of a previous age, when manual labour was a common and life-long form of employment. Now much less of this kind of work is required, far fewer workers of this type are required. But the overall population (driven by basic biology) changes much more slowly than society (driven by intellect) and these issues consequently arise. A brave and insightful government would do well to take note of and address these demographic conditions.

men, employment and education

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