Home working reinforces traditional domestic roles…

but flexible work hours leads to more gender equality at home.

An analysis of six years of longitudinal data from between 2010 and 2016 has found that home working reinforces a traditional gendered division of domestic labour while flexible working leads to a more equal domestic arrangement. 

The research analysed data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (2010-2016) which surveyed 1700 working parents with at least one child aged under 12.

Overall, women spend more than twice as long as men doing housework. Women reported doing 13.4 hours of housework a week on average, men reported doing an average of 5.5; while 54% of women reported being primarily responsible for childcare.  

Further data analysis adjusted the stats for income, education level, ethnicity, age and neighbourhood to isolate the effect of working from home on childcare and housework.

Fathers working from home were half as likely to report they were sharing child care compared to those who were not working from home, with men fearing they may lose their masculinity when taking on more routine tasks.

Whereas women working from home were twice as likely to report they were primarily responsible for childcare compared to those who were not working from home. 

The effect was greater for lower income couples: women doing low income jobs at home spent proportionately more time doing domestic work than women in higher income jobs. 

graphs showing how gender equality at home changes with working from home and flexible working hours.

Flexible working hours led to a more equal gendered division of labour

Flexitime, where men and women have some degree of control over their working hours (days of the week/ start and finish times) led to a more equal division of domestic labour. 

Conclusions and relevance

The broad conclusions are that working from home does not benefit women, but flexible working arrangements do, so if we want to see a more equal division of labour and childcare we want to push for more flexible working hours, not necessarily more home-working hours! 

You need to be careful when using this research as the results are open to interpretation.

If we just allow men and women to work at home then this reinforces traditional gendered divisions of labour. This suggests that if the domestic sphere is further isolated from society this results in ‘patriarchal norms’ being reinforced. This seems to suggest support for the radical feminist view that the isolated, privatised nuclear family is oppressive to women: as they end up doing more domestic labour, men end up doing less when both partners do more paid work from home.

HOWEVER, the fact that more flexible working hours results in more gender equality in how domestic chores are divided offers support for liberal feminism: when men and women are both working but more flexibly, this breaks down the oppressive traditional division of labour, but this requires men and women to be out at work.

Overall, it suggests that a good social policy change would be to introduce more flexible working hours in general, but that pushing for more home based working isn’t such a good idea, if we are interested in more gender equality at home that is!

Limitations of this research

One limitation of this survey is the relatively low sample sizes for those home working and doing flexitime. 

Only 7% of men used working from home arrangements, and only 5% of women. Only 15% of women used flexitime, and only 11% men. 

This means with a sample size of 1700, only around 50 men would have been working from home in that sample, and once you control for income, location, and ethnicity you have some very small sub-samples, for example. 

Sources and Signposting

Heejung Chung and Cara Booker (August, 2022) Work, Employment and Society: Flexible Working and the Division of Housework and Childcare: Examining Divisions across Arrangement and Occupational Lines.

This material is mainly relevant to the families and households module, usually taught as part of the first year within A-level sociology.

Parenting, childcare and gender equality

Parenting is getting more equal, but is still not equal, for example in 2022 women did 30 minutes more childcare per day than their male partners.

To what extent is there equality in relationships between men and women when it comes to parenting and childcare?

Research evidence for greater gender equality

Research by Gayle Kaufman consisting of interviews with 70 American fathers with at least one child under the age of 18 found that between 1977 and 2008 the average American man increased the amount of time spent on household chores and childcare by more than 2 hours per day on average each workday.

Statistics suggest that increasingly men are performing a ‘second shift’ when they return home from work, spending on average 46 hours a week on childcare and housework, which suggests that it is increasingly men rather than women who face the ‘dual burden‘.

Kaufman identified two new types of dads based on how they responded to the challenges of balancing work and family life.

  • ‘New Dads’ which were by far the largest category placed a high priority on involvement with children and made some minor adjustments to their work practices – such as getting to work later or leaving earlier, or ‘leaving work at work’ or bringing work home with them and trying to juggle that and family duties.
  • Superdads actively adjusted their work lives to fit in with their family lives – by changing careers, cutting back work hours or adopting more flexible working hours. These dads saw spending time with their children as the most important thing in their lives, with money and career as less important.

Evidence against gender equality in parenting

We are still a long way from gender equality in parenting…

  • only 10% of full-time stay at home parents are male.
  • 34% of female parents work part time compared to only 6% of male parents.
  • women spend 30 minutes more per day on childcare than men.
  • Only 1/3rd of dads take paternity leave.
  • Fathers spend longer on the fun, easy childcare activities.

90% of full-time stay at home parents are women

Data from the 2021 UK Census found that only 10.6% of full-time stay at home parents were fathers. Meaning that almost 90% of full-time stay at home parents are women.

141 000 economically active men who were looking after children full time at home, compared to 1, 185, 000 women.

However, the proportion of stay at home dads has increased since 2019. in 2019 only 1/14 full time stay at home parents were male, or only 105 000 men. So this is a significant increase in just two years!

Female parents are far more likely to work part-time

  • 83.1% of men work full time compared to 6.3% of men who work part-time
  • 38.4% of women work full time compared to 34.4% of women who work part-time.

Women spend 30 minutes more on childcare more day than men

Post lockdown, in 2022 women still spent 30 minutes more per day on childcare than men. This works out to 3 and a half extra hours per week, even though men and women do increasingly similar amounts of paid work too.

Only 1/3rd of dads take paternity leave

Also, although fathers always say they want to spend more time with their kids rather than working, the evidence does not back this up – a third of men don’t take their two weeks paternity leave, 40% say they don’t intend to take the 6 months they are now entitled to and 90% say they wouldn’t take more than 6 months if it was offered to them.

The Fatherhood Institute reports that only 4% of eligible men take up shared parental leave.

Fathers spend longer on fun childcare activities

Some more detailed research from NatCen revealed that while trends in housework were moving towards greater equality, the same could not be said for trends in childcare.

Graphic on types of childcare men and women do.

Mothers spent more than twice as much time than fathers doing ‘physical’ childcare, which includes such chores as feeding and bathing children.

Mothers spent 28 minutes per day on ‘interactive’ childcare such as playing, reading and talking with their children, compared to 19 minutes for fathers – this is the smallest difference of all the activity types, but arguably the most pleasant!

Mothers spent almost twice as long on ‘other childcare‘ activities such as taking children to school and after-school activities.

You can read a more detailed version of the report here.

Only 16% of single parent households are male

84% of single parent households are single mother households, only 16% are single father households. (Source: ONS families and households data).

However, the number of single father households is increasing, not so long ago 90% of single parent households were headed by females.

Intensive Motherhood

The Emergence of ‘Intensive Motherhood’ suggests things might even be getting worse for some mothers…

According to Sharon Hays (1996) it is still mothers, rather than fathers who remain the target of most parenting advice, and today all mothers are expected to live up to a new norm of ‘intensive mothering’ – a style of mothering that is ‘expert-guided’ and child centred as well as emotionally absorbing, labour intensive and financially expensive, requiring a 24/7 focus on the child.

Hays suggests that intensive mothering has become the taken for granted ‘correct’ style of mothering , and the focus is typically on the mother and not on the father.

Signposting and related posts

This material is relevant to the families and households module.

There is some support here for Liberal Feminism as parenting is gradually becoming more equal. However the pace is VERY SLOW!

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How equal are men and women in relationships these days? Student survey results

Women who do the lioness’s share of the housework, but men and women seem to have equal control over the finances, at least according to two surveys conduct by my A Level sociology students last week.

This acts as a useful update to the topic of power and equality within relationships, especially the ‘domestic division of labour’ aspect.

I actually did two surveys this week with the students this week, both on Socrative.

For the first survey, I simply asked students via Socrative, who did most of the domestic work when they were a child (mostly mother or mostly father – full range of possible responses are in the results below), with ‘domestic work’ broken down into tasks such as cleaning, laundry, DIY etc…

For the second Survey, I got students to write down possible survey questions on post it notes, then I selected 7 of them to make a brief questionnaire which they then used as a basis for interviewing three couples about who did the housework.

Selected results from the initial student survey on parents’ housework

These results were based on students’ memory!

Housework survey 2018

Housework survey 2018 DIY

Selected results from the second survey

based on student interviews with couples

Domestic labour questionnaire 2018

men women finances survey 2018

Discussion of the validity of the results…..

These two surveys on the domestic division of labour (and other things) provided a useful way into a discussion of the strengths and limitations of social surveys more generally….we touched on the following, among other things:

  • memory may limit validity in survey one
  • lack of possible options limits validity in survey two, also serves as an illustration of the imposition problem.
  • asking couples should act as a check on validity, because men can’t exaggerate if they are with their partner.
  • there are a few ethical problems with the ‘him’ and ‘her’ categories, which could be improved upon.

Postcript – on using student surveys to teach A-level sociology

All in all this is a great activity to do with students. It brings the research up to date, it gets them thinking about questionnaire design and, if you time it right, it even gets them out of the class room for half an hour, so you can just put yer feet up and chillax!

If you want to use the same surveys the links, which will allow you to modify as you see fit, are here:


Gender equality in the domestic division of labour

Domestic work has been distributed more equally since the 1950s, but women still shoulder the majority of housework and childcare responsibilities. Although new technologies and women’s increasing participation in paid work have contributed to balancing the load, there is evidence of a lingering dual burden for women. Factors such as ethnicity, education, and social class also influence these dynamics.

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? 

Before reading this post, you might like to read this preceding post: Conceptualising Gender Equality. This post covers some of the concepts sociologists have developed over the years to describe trends towards gender equality in domestic life.

A useful resource for exploring ‘raw data’ on who does the housework is the Understanding Society UK Longitudinal Study.

The domestic division of labour: more equal since the 1950s

  • Numerous surveys carried out since the 1950s show a narrowing of the gender gap in the domestic division of labour.
  • Liberal Feminists and Young and Willmott would argue that more women are in paid work means 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.

Gender inequality in housework just before lockdown

A 2019 study UCL study based on interviews with 8 500 opposite sex couples found that:

  • Women do 16 hours of household chores every week, men do closer to six.
  • Women did the bulk of the domestic chores in 93 per cent of couples .
  • There was a 50-50 split of domestic chores in 6% of couples
  • Only 1% of couples had men doing more domestic work than women.

This work is summarised in this Independent article.

Lockdown narrowed the Gendered Division of Labour Gap

A 2020 study from the ONS found that before Lockdown, in 2104-15, women did 1 hour 50 minutes more housework and childcare per day than men. This reduced to 1 hour and 7 minutes per day during Lockdown.

graph comparing housework done by men and women.

After Lockdown: more inequality

In 2022 women did 30 minutes more housework per day than men. They did one hour more childcare.

Interestingly, men seem to do slightly more housework post-lockdown compared to before lockdown. The difference is less for childcare, which has reverted back to being mainly women.

Housework – Gendered Variations by Ethnicity

A 2016 study found that women do three times as much housework than men in Indian households, and four times as much in Pakistani and Bangladeshi households. This compares to twice as much housework than men in White British and Black British households.

table of stats showing how housework varies by gender and ethnicity.

The study found that gender attitudes and lack of education were predictors of housework imbalance. More educated women in all ethnic groups did proportionately less housework.

Do women who do paid work do less housework than men?

It seems obvious that women going into paid work has resulted in greater equality. As most women are now in paid work this means they have more financial independence than ever before.

The statistics above clearly show that the gendered division of labour has become more equal since the 1950s and this is correlated with women and men doing more similar amounts of housework.

HoweverRadical Feminists argue that paid work has led to the dual burden and triple shift.

Even in relationships where both men and women work women do more housework and childcare than men.

This data seems to support the radical feminist view that paid work has not been ‘liberating’. Instead women have acquired the ‘dual burden’ of paid work and unpaid housework and the family remains patriarchal. Men benefit from women’s paid earnings and their domestic labour. Some Radical Feminists go further arguing that women suffer from the ‘triple shift’ where they have to do paid work, domestic work and ‘emotion work’.

Housework: what chores do men and women do?

We need to go back a bit further in time to get the data.

A survey of almost 1,000 users of the Mumsnet website revealed similar findings:

  • Changing lightbulbs, taking the bins out and DIY were the only three of 54 common domestic tasks done mainly by men.
  • Most often done by female partners were organising playdates, health appointments, childcare and birthday parties, cleaning and laundry. Parents were most likely to view parents evenings, school plays and bedtime stories 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.”

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. Partners shared laundry duties 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. 70 per cent of households still see laundry 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 same is true for cleaning and caring for sick family members.
  • By contrast, 75 per cent of households see DIY as solely men’s work. This is exactly as it was almost 20 years ago


Analysis – Who does the Housework? Men or Women?

  • 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.
Signposting and Related Posts

The material above is relevant to the families and households module, usually studied as part of the first year in sociology.

To what extent are gender roles equal?

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