Jobs for the boys: does the UK need a minister for men?

Conservative MP calls for dedicated cabinet role to combat 'crisis' in men's mental health and education

Conservative MP Nick Fletcher
The Don Valley MP also argued that the benefits for men would be felt by women
(Image credit: Danny Lawson/Alamy)

A Red Wall Tory MP has claimed that a new government position of minister for men would benefit the whole of society.

Just a few years ago, the idea of a UK minister for men would have been "dismissed out of hand", said the New Statesman. Indeed, when Conservative MP Ben Bradley proposed it in 2020, it was fodder for jokes. But now, the same proposal by Nick Fletcher, the first Conservative MP for the Red Wall's Don Valley, is being taken seriously. There have been "some respectful responses in the press, largely from women". 

"If men are living a better, happier, healthier life then it is better for women too," Fletcher told BBC Radio 4's "Woman's Hour" – "and it's better for society as a whole". Over the last century, "we've worked really hard with equality, to put women at the table along with men", he said. "But we can do two things at once."

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'Men are in crisis'


The fact that there is no minister for men is "troubling", wrote Fletcher for The Daily Telegraph. Men's and boys' wellbeing "is in crisis" – and it is getting worse. Men account for three out of four deaths from suicide. At every stage of education, "boys are behind girls", and growing numbers (more than 400,000) are not in education, work or training. 

But there is "very little focus" from government to address these issues. Indeed, the political conversation seems to imply that "only women have problems and only men are problems". The "deafening silence" cannot continue.

There is "sufficient evidence" of specific challenges facing men and boys to justify a minister, wrote Richard Reeves, author of "Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling", for the New Statesman. Although in theory, the Equalities Office should tackle gender gaps that "disadvantage boys and men", as well as the other way round, in practice "it does not, and seems unlikely to". 

According to research from the Future Men charity, 29% of young men feel forgotten by society. A minister for men would send a strong message that they are being seen, and cared for – a "powerful counter to online misogynists such as Andrew Tate", who claim otherwise. Although Tate is wrong, politicians are indeed "failing to respond".

"The political conversation seems to imply that only women have problems and only men are problems."

Nick Fletcher in The Telegraph

'Too blunt an instrument'


Of course men face problems specific to being men, wrote Martha Gill for The Observer – but that is because "as half the population they fall into all sorts of other discriminated-against categories", which interact with gender in complex ways. 

But "they are still on top in most important respects": power, wealth and status. Men earn on average more per hour than women, despite entering the workforce with fewer qualifications, dominate top positions "in nearly every trade and profession", are less likely to be killed by their partners or to suffer sexual violence. Yes, the male suicide rate is some three times higher, but women are more likely to attempt it. The pendulum "has not yet swung to the middle, let alone the other way". Imagine appointing a minister for any other dominant group – like, say, white people. 

"Imagine appointing a minister for any other dominant group – a minister for white people, say, or heterosexuals, or the able-bodied."

Martha Gill in The Observer

A minister for men is simply "too blunt an instrument", Gill continued in The Observer. The problems, such as working-class men falling behind in employment and education, or black men facing racial discrimination, are "not well captured" by a general focus on men. White, middle-class men still do rather well, after all. 

A minister for men would "sit uneasily in a cabinet that includes a minister for women and equalities – rather like appointing a minister for levelling up and a minister for levelling down". The very idea is "offensive".

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Harriet Marsden is a writer for The Week, mostly covering UK and global news and politics. Before joining the site, she was a freelance journalist for seven years, specialising in social affairs, gender equality and culture. She worked for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent, and regularly contributed articles to The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The New Statesman, Tortoise Media and Metro, as well as appearing on BBC Radio London, Times Radio and “Woman’s Hour”. She has a master’s in international journalism from City University, London, and was awarded the "journalist-at-large" fellowship by the Local Trust charity in 2021.