Camilla Cavendish’s article on “slaying the worklessness monster” (Opinion, November 25) is a much-needed exposé of the silent anchor weighing down developed economies. Despite having alluded to the exacerbated effects in poorer areas, it seems one demographic emerges more susceptible than most: men.

This isn’t exclusive to the UK. The US reports 7mn working-age men neither working nor looking for work, and Japan has already grappled with the problem of hikikomori (societal withdrawal) for a decade.

Cavendish offers as a reason the ease of access to benefits, but that might not get to the root of the issue. For example 10.3 per cent of working-age males claim universal credit in Birmingham, compared to only 6.9 per cent of women, while universal credit claims nationwide are 4.2 per cent and 3.2 per cent for men and women respectively, both lower overall and with less discrepancy between the sexes.

Strikingly, in Liverpool, median hourly wages are actually higher for women than they are for men (despite disadvantages in earning power such as career breaks for maternity leave). Women’s entry into the workforce has kept the family’s living standards afloat, and men, failing to supply, are checking out from work as a result.

So, with chancellor Jeremy Hunt aiming to replenish the workforce, might he consider carefully what is disproportionately affecting men?

Research shows worse outcomes for boys compared to girls when growing up in single-parent households, with uneducated parents, in neighbourhoods surrounded by crime and much more.

While trying to address those issues isn’t easy or quick, doing so might just bring half of our talent out of the shadows, much as we did when we lifted the handbrakes on women.

Jake Westerman
Foula, Shetland Island, UK

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