Emily Tan
Nov 19, 2013

Men care as much about parenting as they do about careers: JWT

ASIA-PACIFIC - Far from the autocratic household dictator of old, today’s Asian man is more focused on relationships and embracing his role as a husband and father, according to a study conducted in Singapore, Malaysia and China by JWT Asia-Pacific.

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For the report, JWT surveyed more than 1,500 men and women in the three markets from 2 August to 9 August using its online panel, Sonar. The findings have the potential to change the messaging brands use to advertise to these men and also address the preconception that only women shop for groceries.

“The men we surveyed in Singapore, China and Malaysia see themselves in a very different light to their fathers,” said Sosuke Koyama, head of strategic planning at JWT Singapore. “Men say they want to participate more in the family, particularly when it comes to raising their kids, and say they experience anxiety about achieving a work-life balance.”

The definition of ‘what makes a man’ is changing across these markets where men rank emotional support for their family as a primary definer (57 per cent) just after career success (63 per cent). In fact, in Malaysia, family and parenting is on par with career success and the amount of money made. Overall, men ranked parenting abilities higher than attractiveness, the ability to bond over sports, sexual conquests or the car they drive.

This paradigm shift is proving a little tough on men. Six in 10 men surveyed view their gender as becoming less dominant in society and 80 per cent think that things are just as hard for men as it is for women (gender wage gap studies notwithstanding).

Men are are also more likely than women to sigh that life is harder than the generation before, believing it's harder for men to date, be a parent, husband, live up to society's expectations and to succeed professionally. Women aren't quite as sure that life is harder for men. The biggest disparity is dating: 15 per cent of men think it's harder than it was before, but only 1 per cent of women agree. 

The need to balance both career and family, however, has created a rather anxious Malaysian male. The study found that they feel twice the amount of anxiety about being a good spouse as the men from China, who, with stunning self-confidence, have given themselves the highest grade when it comes to household responsibilities. Nearly a quarter of Chinese men gave themselves an A (always on top of it) and 54 per cent gave themselves a B (mostly on top of it). Singaporeans were slightly more humble with 15 per cent giving themselves an A and 40 per cent awarding themselves a B.

Unfortunately, Singaporean women aren’t quite as positive about their men as their men are about themselves. While both partners in Malaysia and China agreed that both partners played a role in making decisions about the kids’ education and activities, men in Singapore felt that they played a role but Singaporean women disagreed.

The team dynamic between Singaporean couples further breaks down when Singaporean men were asked to rank their spouse’s abilities when it comes to childcare. While 66 per cent of Singaporean women gave themselves a B, only 41 per cent of Singaporean men gave their wives that grade and a further 20 per cent gave a C (help out, but are nto good at this type of thing). In contrast, men and women in Malaysia and China largely agreed on the ‘childcare grade’ their women received and barely gave any of the women a C.

Across all markets however when it comes to housework and child care, men and women have different ideas on who does the most work. While about half the men say they are primarily in charge of discipline and playing with their kids, just 25 per cent of women agree that their spouse is in charge of only one of the above. Also while 40 per cent of men claim to be largely responsible for grocery shopping, just 12 per cent of women agree.

Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, mum still does most of the work with more than 70 per cent of men across all three markets admitting that their spouse takes care of enforcing the kids’ routines—including bedtime, table manners, eating schedules and homework—most of the time.

Still whether it’s a fact or just perception at present, how men perceive themselves and their roles in society is shifting, and this will impact brands across the region, said Libby Schaub, strategic planning director at JWT Singapore. “The men we surveyed aspire to be progressive dads. Brands have a real opportunity to connect with men across Asia through their role as active, invested fathers.”

For starters, brands can help dads find ways to nurture their relationships with children and find ways to connect with their spouses. Marketing to this category should have an aspirational ring to it, advised the report. Men today aspire to be honourable, decent and progressive parents, which goes much deeper than just being ‘macho’. Marketers may want to dial down the testosterone factor and show men with more dimensions. Furthermore. showing men as active members of the household provides an aspirational image for not just men but women as well.

FMCG brands should include men in on the ‘small stuff’ too. Supermarkets should no longer assume that their customer is a woman. Dad has started to pitch in around the house and may have an opinion on household brands.

Also, while studies (including this one by TNS) have found women more likely to use their mobile phones for research while shopping than men, brands shouldn’t ignore the fact that men are up for using their devices while shopping as well.

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