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Panorama Archives: 2000
Britain's Everyman for '96
by Lee Rodwell
Contributor to the Daily Telegraph
Stiff upper-lip, pinstripe suit, bowler hat, briefcase and rolled-up black umbrella - the veritable picture of the average British man? Not these days. Not any more. In the Britain of the 1990s this variety of male is an endangered species, still to be spotted in his natural habitat, the City of London's Square Mile, but rarely encountered elsewhere.
So what is life really like for Mr. Average Briton today - what kind of job does he have? Where does he live? What does he do in his free time? Above all, what kind of man is he?
He is married for a start - walking up the church aisle or, just as likely, turning up at a state register office at around the age of 28. By the time he's in his forties, he's got dependent children, although there is a strong possibility that the woman he now lives with is his second wife or partner.
He has moved home every five to ten years. When he was younger he lived in rented, furnished accommodation but now he owns a semi that he is buying through a mortgage. (Semi-detached houses are the most common type of home in the UK; two-thirds of the housing stock is owner occupied.) In 1994 he would have paid an average of £63,100 for his home - £85,200 if he bought a place in Greater London.
Like one in five men in the UK, Mr. Average is probably a manager or an administrator. He works just over 45 hours a week - more than his counterparts in other European Union (EU) countries. He'll reach his peak earning age in his mid forties, by which time his gross weekly earnings will be just under £450 per week. He spends much of his money making his home comfortable. He has a colour television, phone, washing machine, fridge-freezer, video, tumble-drier and a CD player.
Everyman may even have a home computer (especially if he has children) and a dish-washer. But he probably didn't pay immediately for all these items - credit card transactions in the UK have almost doubled in the past eight years.
There's a car parked outside or in the garage, typically a five-year-old red Ford Sierra. He started to learn to drive when he was 19 and passed his test when he was 21. He drives about 8,300 miles a year, enjoys motoring and sees himself as a "very good" driver even if Mrs. Everywoman and their children may disagree.
Since he's had the regular use of the car, from aroung the age of 22, he's tended to drive rather than use public transport. He probably drives all or part of the way to work. He certainly takes the car when he goes to the supermarket to help his wife with the shopping.
Mr. Everyman quite likes shopping, but he doesn't do a great deal else in the way of household jobs. In eight out of ten marriages/relationships it's the partner who does the washing, ironing and the bulk of the housework even if she also works full time. On the other hand, the small repairs around the house tend to fall to him.
Of course, he probably argues that his working day is long than his wife's ( a man in full-time employment spends an average 53 hours a week on work, travel or study - five more than a women in a full-time job). But allowing for the extra time his wife spends at home on household jobs, he ends up with two hours more free time at weekends than she does.
How does Everyman spend his two free hours a week? - probably watching television, the most popular leisure activity for men between 30 and 44, although not every husband is a "couch potato". More than half of British men in this age range also enjoy gardening or DIY (do-it-yourself).
But despite that, Everyman gets out of the house and may drop into his local pub for a pint - still the most common activity for men outside the home. He may go out for a meal in a restaurant or take the family for a drive. He may decide to catch up with the latest film showing at the cinema or even take his wife away for a short-break holiday.
He might even go to support his favourite football team - just under one in three men go to watch sporting events - but it's unlikely he plays football himself - in the UK only nine in a hundred men between the ages of 30 and 44 do so. In fact, his preferred form of exercise is walking, although he may also go swimming.
The British Everyman has learned to cope pretty well with the social changes that have taken place in the space of a generation. In his father's day a man often had on job for life - now people change employment and skills more often.
His mother may not have gone out to work but his partner probably does. He may still see himself - just as his father did - as the head of the family. But he is increasingly likely to view his marriage more as an equal partnership - one in which both parties contribute towards the financial outgoings and family responsibilities - rather than having different roles, where the man is the breadwinner and the woman brings up their children and runs the home.
According to relationships psychologist Susan Quilliam: "Mr. Average Britan is far more informal with his children than his father was - and he wants regular contact with them. He expects an intimate, emotional relationship with his wife.
"He is much more prepared to examine his feelings and talk to his friends and his wife about his problems. He may still not be comfortable showing his emotions in public but he no longer believes - if he ever really did - that the best response to any crisis is a stiff upper-lip."
EDITOR'S NOTE: The British Everyman for 1996 sounds a lot like his American counterpart, in fact, they would be hard to tell apart if it weren't for the accent.
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