Eight out of ten married women do more housework than their husbands

Published Sat 10 Mar 2012
Tax relief for cleaners and nannies would entrench gender injustice for middle earners

Eight out of ten married women (77%) do more housework than their husbands, according to new analysis from the think tank IPPR, published ahead of Mothering Sunday (18th) and the Chancellor's forthcoming Budget.

 

IPPR analysis shows that just one in ten married men (10%) do an equal amount of housework as their wives, while just over one in ten (13%) of women says their husbands do more housework than they do. IPPR says this shows that couples find it easier to split into traditional 'breadwinner' and 'homemaker' roles than they do to share employment, childcare and housework.

 

The latest statistics show the number of 'house husbands' in Britain has trebled in the last 15 years, although there are still just 62,000 men who are economically inactive and say they care for family or the home.

 

IPPR analysis shows that eight out of ten married women (87%) do seven or more hours a week of housework, the equivalent of an entire working day in spent on housework. Almost a third of married women (30%) do 7-12 hours of housework a week, while almost half of married women (45%) do 13 hours or more.

 

Just 3% of married women do less than three hours of housework each week, while 10% are able to do just 4-6 hours. Among married women doing the least housework (just 0-6 hours a week), more than a third of men (40%) do more housework than their wives but almost two thirds (60%) do less. It is likely that most of these couples have paid help although there are no official figures for the number of UK homes that employ domestic staff.

 

IPPR analysis shows how patterns of housework have changed for women born in 1958 compared to women born in 1970, when both cohorts of women were in their early thirties. More than eight out of ten women (85 per cent) born in 1958 said they do more 'laundry and ironing' than their partner, while just over seven out of ten women (75 per cent) born in 1970 agreed.

 

But the biggest advances have been made by women who do not have dependent children in their home. Just over one in five women (22 per cent) born in 1958, but without children, say their partner shares laundry and ironing equally. Almost a third of women (30 per cent) without children born in 1970 agreed. This IPPR analysis is supported by academic evidence suggesting that dual earner couples without children are the most gender equal.

 

IPPR argues that the route to gender equality requires society to change and for men to voluntarily do more of their fair share. But IPPR argues that if the Chancellor introduces tax relief on domestic cleaning staff, it will help well of families and further entrench gender inequality among low earners. Instead, IPPR says the state should offer universal pre-school childcare, which will pay for itself over time by increasing the UK's female employment rate and boosting tax paid by working mothers.

 

Nick Pearce, IPPR Director said:

 

"The revolution in gender roles is unfinished business. Women still shoulder the overwhelming burden of household tasks, particularly after they have had children. When they earn more, their bargaining power with their partners increases, so closing the gender pay gap would help. Universal childcare, rather than tax relief for nannies or cleaners is also the best way forward for a family friendly, more equal Britain.

 

"On most key issues, the route to modern feminist goals must pass through fathers. Men should work more flexibly, take greater responsibility for caring for their children and their homes, and have the right to reserved parental leave."

 

Notes to Editors

 

Last month there were suggestions that the Government is considering Swedish style tax relief for working mothers to use domestic staff. The Swedish government allows people to deduct from their tax bill half the cost of household services such as cleaning, cooking, lawn-mowing, snow-shovelling and babysitting. The tax relief is said to have created more than 5,000 jobs, in a country with a population six times smaller than the UK. A similar system in Finland resulted in 92,000 people taking up the scheme, with the total tax deduction amounting to EUR42.70million (£35.80million).

 

On a recent trip to Sweden, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: "What you do in Sweden in terms of tax help and tax relief, not so much on child care but on other things that help women go out to work, I thought that was a very interesting idea that I want to look at further." But Swedish social democrats say that a relatively small group of wealthy Swedes, earning more than 50,000 kronor (£4,700) a month, are far more likely to make use of the subsidised services than lower paid households.

 

Academic evidence using time-use survey data, shows that men in dual earner couples with higher levels of educational attainment now contribute substantially more to childcare than men with lower educational attainment. This change has occurred since the 1970s. But for other household work - excluding childcare - the same change has not occurred. Instead, there has been a 'catching up' among men with lower levels of educational attainment since the 1970s but they only equal the contribution of college-educated men. Overall, parents appear to be including their children in their own leisure time.

 

Academic evidence from Denmark shows men are the unequal party, if you take into account average working day, housework and leisure activity. Other evidence shows that national universal childcare policy increases women's participation in the labour market and that welfare regimes play an important role in gender equality.

 

IPPR's analysis shows that higher socio-economic groups are more likely to have 'laundry and ironing' done by someone other than a woman or her partner. But it also shows that the proportion has declined over time, with 6 per cent of professional and managerial women who were born in 1958 saying someone else does the laundry and ironing (when they were 33 years old), compared with 3.6 per cent of professional and managerial women born in 1970 (when they were 30 years old).

 

IPPR's report - Making the case for universal childcare - is available from: http://www.ippr.org/publications/55/8382/making-the-case-for-universal-childcare

It argues that providing universal childcare is crucial to improve the UK's female employment rate. It shows that that universal childcare pays for itself over time: each mother returning to work part-time on an average wage after a year's maternity leave would net the Treasury £4,860 over four years, in additional tax revenue. This rises to £20,050 if women work full-time.

 

IPPR's report - Parents at the centre - is available from:

http://www.ippr.org/publications/55/1835/parents-at-the-centre

It presents the findings of deliberative workshops with 104 parents from across the UK:

  • Parents use childcare primarily for their child's social development. Other reasons include educational development and preparing children for school.
  • When asked about accessibility, location was most important for the majority of parents. Provision had to be close to home, preferably within walking distance.
  • Affordability was also a major concern with few being willing or able to pay any additional fees.

 

IPPR's latest analysis is based on Understanding Society (2009/10), the British Cohort Study (BCS70) and the National Child Development Study (NCDS58). It is part of an on-going project to understand women's aspirations and expectations across generations. For more see: http://ippr.org/research-project/44/8462/women-across-generations-expectations-and-aspirations

Contact

Richard Darlington, 07525 481 602, r.darlington@ippr.org

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