How did the Pandemic affect gender relations at home? 

both men and women did more housework and childcare, but women still did a lot more than men!

Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that while men did proportionally more childcare and housework during lockdown compared to pre-lockdown, women did more housework and childcare than their male partners during the lockdowns and women’s pay took a larger hit than men’s. 

The fact that women continued to shoulder the burden of domestic work and childcare cannot be explained by differences in occupations or income and seems to be explained simply by gender norms. 

Data was collected using an online survey of almost 5000 parents with at least one child aged between 4 and 15 years, conducted during the first Lockdown between 29 April and 15 May 2020, this survey used a diary instrument to measure time use during this period, and the survey also collected data on occupation and income before and during the Pandemic. 

Before lockdown mothers were at 82% of the employment rate of fathers, this fell to 70% during lockdown. 

Lockdowns involved an increase in domestic labour and childcare for both men and women…

infographics showing the increase in housework and childcare for men and women during lockdown

During lockdown mothers did four hours more on childcare and housework than fathers, and this is true of women in higher and lower income jobs. 

The research also found that this isn’t because of couples being rational about men earning more than women, even in couples where men and women earned the same, or women earned more than men, women still did proportionally more housework and childcare than men. 

In conclusion it seems that the sudden shock of being forced into more home work did relatively little to change the traditional gender divide in the domestic division of labour. 

However this doesn’t necessarily mean that shifting towards more home working and flexible working hours will continue to reinforce such patterns going forwards, under normal working circumstances rather than in the middle of a pandemic!

Sources and Signposting…

This material is mainly relevant to the families and households module, which is usually taught as part of the families and households module.

If offers broad support for the radical feminist view that when the nuclear family becomes relatively more isolated, as happened during lockdown, we revert to more traditional, ‘patriarchal’ relations between men and women.

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