Most men in Europe want to spend fewer hours at work and more time with their families even though it would cut their income, a major study on employment shows.
The common belief that higher-earning men like to work longer to build their careers is shown to be wrong by the study -- men who earn the majority of their household's income were most likely to want to work less.
Sociologists Dr Shireen Kanji and Dr Robin Samuel also found that for men breadwinners the attraction of spending more time with their partner is as strong a pull as children's company.
Dr Kanji, of the University of Leicester, and Dr Samuel, of the University of Bern, analysed survey data on the working lives of more than 4,000 men in 12 European countries, including the UK. In an article in the journal Sociology they say:
In their article, the researchers say: "We show that male breadwinners are at a higher risk of overwork and this is related to the job interfering with their family life, a specific form of work-life conflict. The implication is that male breadwinners feel constrained from participating as fully as they desire in family life, even if they do not have children.
"For male breadwinners, being in a partnership is more salient to overwork than having children. Perhaps it is the inability to spend time with a partner that stimulates the feeling of overwork."
The study is the first to analyse whether European men want to work less than they do. "Little is known about whether men actually want to work long hours," the researchers say.
It had been thought by some that higher earning men might be content to work longer hours because high status jobs pay well. But the research suggests that because they can afford to work less and take a pay cut, they are more willing to do so than lower-earning men.
The researchers also say that their finding suggests businesses "need to pay more serious attention to work-life balance as an issue for men, not only a women's issue as currently seems to be the practice."
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