Do men and women do equal amounts of housework and child care today or is there evidence of a dual burden for women? What do the trends suggest about women’s empowerment?
There is evidence that the domestic division of labour has become more equal over time, especially since the 1950s.
- Numerous surveys carried out since the 1950s show a narrowing of the gender gap in the domestic division of laobur.
- Liberal Feminists and Young and Wilmott would argue that this is because more women are in paid work and families become more symmetrical.
- Another reason for this is the ‘commercialisation of housework’ – New technologies such as washing machines, hoovers and fridge-freezers (think ready meals) have reduced the amount of housework that needs doing and narrows the gender divide in the domestic division of labour.
However, the gendered division of domestic labour is still very unequal
According to a 2011 survey by the Social Issues Research Centre, The Changing Face of Motherhood, there has been hardly any change in domestic division of labour over the last 20 years (since the mid 1990s):
- In 1994 it emerged that for 79 per cent of couples the woman did most or all of the laundry, with the role being shared in only 18 per cent of cases. The latest survey (in 2011) showed that the proportion sharing the role has only risen by two percentage points. In 70 per cent of houses laundry is still seen as women’s work.
- In the kitchen, there has been virtually no change in the last 10 years. Women still do the lion’s share of the cooking in 55 per cent of couple households.
- When it comes to tasks such as shopping for groceries, women’s workload has increased slightly the early 1990s. The picture was similar when people were asked about cleaning and caring for sick family members.
- By contrast, DIY is still seen as virtually the sole preserve of men in 75 per cent of households – exactly as it was almost 20 years ago
A 2014 survey by the BBC’s Women’s Hour has found women devote well over the equivalent of a working day each week to household chores – double the amount undertaken by men. The poll for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour suggests that women spend an average of 11-and-a-half hours doing housework by their own estimation, while men complete just six.
Similar findings were revealed in a survey of almost 1,000 users of the Mumsnet website.
- Changing lightbulbs, taking the bins out and DIY were the only three of 54 common domestic tasks done in more than half of cases by men, with 15 roughly shared and the rest chiefly carried out by women.
- Most often done by female partners were organising playdates, health appointments, childcare and birthday parties – as well as cleaning and laundry. Parents evenings, school plays and bedtime stories are most often seen as shared activities.
- Justine Roberts, CEO of Mumsnet said: “One in three working mums is the main family wage earner, a rise of one million over the last 18 years… But despite this, women are still busting a gut back home, responsible for the vast majority of chores and domestic responsibilities. It’s not surprising we still talk about glass ceilings and the lack of women at the top. Most of us are just too exhausted to climb the greasy pole.”
Source – Chore Wars Poll
- Looking at the above statistics it seems reasonable to conclude that Radical Feminist concepts such as the dual burden and the triple shift still apply.
- We can also conclude that women going into paid work has not yet resulted in total equality in the domestic division of labour.
- It also seems reasonable to assume that there may be social class differences in the gendered division of labour – the top 10% of households will be in a position to hire cleaners and child care thus reducing the dual burden on middle class, professional women.
- Another way in which middle class women will be advantaged compared to working class is that because of their husbands’ hire earning power, they will be more able to take time off work to be full time stay at home mums – meaning that they may do more domestic labour, but at least they don’t suffer the dual burden and triple shift.