Division of domestic labour is the division of tasks, roles and duties within the household that are influenced by specific cultural, environmental and social conditions.
Traditionally, the responsibilities for domestic work and childcare have fallen to women whereas men are supposed to go out to work and earn money.
Today we are going to discuss if men and women do equal amounts of housework and childcare around the world and if there is evidence of a dual burden for women.
If you are already looking forward to learning more about the campaigns and lifestyle changes that were seeking to update traditional perceptions of domestic responsibilities, just keep on reading.
Is the division of domestic labour equal today?
One of the most passionately debated topics by feminism since the 1960s was the so-called division of domestic labour debate. Traditional economic theories focused almost exclusively on labour out of the home.
Thus, domestic labour was ignored, in spite of the fact that it is essential to production, not to mention the role it plays in reproducing the labour force.
The feminist movement has continually protested against the division of the roles of women in the home. As they argue, domestic work is not to say natural or exclusive domain of women. Furthermore, it’s indisputable that women and men should have equal employment rights.
Even though according to the statistics, 1970s society prescribed to women a place in the home but in reality women were often wage-earner too.
But after all what does the division of domestic labour really mean? As the statistics show, in 2005, women were still realizing two-thirds of domestic tasks compared to men. Not to mention that women spent longer on domestic work than men.
To say more precisely, women working full-time spent about 151 minutes per day compared to 113 by men.
The division of work refers to who does what work in various spheres. But how can we talk about gender equality if traditionally, it has always been women who work in the domestic sphere?
Women’s Liberation Movement
The Women’s Liberation Movement was launched to work on fundamental shifts in the attitudes towards housework and for the achievement of gender equality. But what was the goal of the Women’s Liberation Movement?
The main mission of the Women’s Liberation Movement was to achieve fundamental changes in the concept of the division of labour. According to the movement the mechanisms that needed change to support both parents working were:
- More widely available and more affordable childcare solutions.
- Maternity and paternity leave allowances needed to be more comprehensive.
- Equal rights to same-sex couples bringing up children.
- Black and Asian feminists needed to be granted with fair immigration laws that would recognize the rights of families divided by migration. Also, black and minority ethnic families needed to be taken into consideration more as sometimes they were the recipients of particular stereotyping.
The changes of division of domestic labour through the history
Between the period of the 1950s and 60s, the image of the happy housewife was very controversial as it ignored issues of race and class. Many women simply could not afford to be out of employment.
The concept of a ‘happy’ housewife was just a wrong promise for many women who dedicated themselves to the domestic work and often found themselves isolated from society. So, they didn’t receive any support to help them become independent and they had no idea of how to change their life for the better.
Despite the fact that till 1997 women still performed the major part of domestic work, according to the statistics the involvement of men’s participation in domestic work has become really significant.
To illustrate, there had been a reduction in some gender equality issues, such as in the performance of some of the normatively feminine-associated tasks. Also, there is a large increase in the time contributed to domestic work tasks by men.
Indeed, as the statistics show, over time the division of domestic labour has become more equal, especially since the 1950s. Numerous surveys that were realized since the 1950s show a narrowing of the gender gap in this sphere. Probably, this is because families become more symmetrical as more women are in paid work.
Another reason that narrows the gender divide in the domestic division of labour are the new technologies such as washing machines, hoovers and many others that have reduced the amount of housework that needs doing.
Theoretical Interpretations of Division of Domestic Labour
Different theories tried to explain why women perform household labour and why men monopolize higher paid positions. In general, the theories can be grouped into four categories: nature, culture, economy, and gender inequality.
As feminism suggests, a more equal division of household labor cannot happen as long as men occupy the best jobs, receive more promotions and get paid more.
Feminism also argues that even if one day women gain more economic opportunities and power until economic and cultural forces encourage more gender equality, changes in the division of domestic labor will be pretty small.
So what can we conclude about Division of Domestic Labour?
Despite the fact that there has been a major step forward in the division of domestic labour, it is still one of the main problems of gender equality. According to a 2011 statistics by the Social Issues Research Centre, there has been hardly any change in the domestic division of work over the last 20 years.
In 1994 it was calculated that for 79% of couples the woman did most or all of the laundry. The role was shared in only 18% of cases. Furthermore, the latest surveys demonstrated that the proportion of sharing the roles has only risen by two percentages and still in 70% of houses laundry is done by women.
As for the kitchen, there has been basically no change in the last 10 years as women still do the lion’s share of the cooking. What concerns to such tasks as shopping for groceries, women’s work has even increased slightly.
The statistics show that women spend an average of 11-and-a-half hours doing domestic chores by their own estimation, while men complete just six. The vast majority of women responsibilities are almost everything connected with housework included changing sheets and cleaning the toilets, whereas men are mainly in charge of bins and DIY jobs.
It seems reasonable to conclude that women going into paid work have not yet resulted in total gender equality in the domestic division of labour.
It’s also important to note that there may be social class differences in the gendered division of labour. Some households will be in a position to hire cleaners and childcare thus, reducing the dual burden on middle class and professional women.
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