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Hard to be a man

It was interesting to note from your article, "Job prospects worse for men than for women" (TES, February 28), that the effects of a disadvantaged childhood are particular striking for men. While there is clearly a complex matrix of reasons for this, should we be surprised?

Cultural expectations have long impacted on men as the major breadwinners, and occupational patterns and traditional family structures both reflect and reinforce this. Among the lower-paid generally, the opportunity for women to earn is so substantially less than it is for men that it may make financial sense for a woman to give up her job in favour of further or even higher education, while for the man to do so would entail a dramatic and largely untenable drop in the family income.

Even where further education is pursued by men, the resultant occupational prospects may not be so lucrative in the short term as a manual job with overtime possibilities, and thus for a large number of men the chance to leave low-paid, insecure employment is still lower than it is for women. For those of us who still believe in education as the great liberator, this may be a bitter pill to swallow.

Paul Gregg and Stephen Machin from the London School of Economics are right to identify the need to intervene at an earlier age, but as long as the socio-economic environment remains as it is at present, education can only paper over the cracks.

PAULINE RENDALL Cornwall College Pool Redruth Cornwall

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