How much housework do you do? Taking care of your home takes a lot of work and, sadly, a lot of it falls on the shoulders of women. Men prefer taking on tasks that require more of physical strength, but in today’s urban living there aren’t many of that kind of chores. A new study from UCL revealed that less than 7% of couples share housework equally.
In the period between 2010 and 2011 scientists have interviewed over 8,500 different sex couples. Researchers wanted to see how different people in those couples divided their time between paid employment, caring duties, and domestic labour. Scientists analyzed the collected data, took into account the role of the provider and divided the participants into 8 groups. They then found that only in two of these groups, constituting a little more than just 6 % of the participants, men did more or at least as much as women in terms of housework. In these couples women were high earners of the family.
49% of couples in this study were dual-earners with both members of the couple tending to be employed full-time and 28 % had the man working full time and woman staying at home. In both of these groups women tended to do more hours of housework. But don’t think that this is because men spend too much energy at work – the third biggest group constituted 13 % of the participants had both people not working and women did significantly more housework anyway. This third group consisted of older couples, which suggests that even when retired they stuck with more traditional gender roles.
Not all couples had such traditional old-school structures. 1 % of the cohort fell into a small group where men stayed at home and did much more housework than their spouses. Women, of course, were working earning money at that time, which explains why men were doing so much housework. However, even in this group women were not completely free of chores.
Attitudes about gender roles are changing. Women understand that they need to take charge and responsibility, while men are more willing to help in traditionally female work. However, these changes are not that quick when it comes to closed family environment. Professor Anne McMunn, lead author of the study, said: “Our study suggests that even couples who share egalitarian ideas about the roles of men and women may not be able to counter potential obstacles to equality in the UK. Evidence from Nordic countries shows that well-paid paternity leave provision and affordable childcare are also key”.
Therefore, there are some policy changes that could encourage men to do more housework, but ultimately it is all up to cultural norms and beliefs. Cooperation is key and both sides of the couple should not be overworked to depression.