Gender matters in the home chores debate

Megan Neil
(Australian Associated Press)


Australian men think they do their fair share of household chores. Overburdened women disagree, new figures reveal.

Australians believe they are more progressive in their views about traditional gender roles at home and work, but the reality is different, the latest data from the University of Melbourne’s long-term HILDA study shows.

Report co-author Inga Lass said men and women are increasingly disagreeing with statements about traditional general arrangements for parenting and work.

Women in de facto relationships were least likely to be in favour of traditional gender roles while married men were most in favour of such arrangements, the Melbourne Institute academic said.

Dr Lass said there was a significant discrepancy between men and women’s perceptions of a fair share of work.

“HILDA shows most women feel overburdened by household chores, while most men think they do their fair share.”

Men spend an extra hour a week on housework compared to 2002, but their 13.3 hours is short of women’s 20.4 hours.

Both sexes increased their time devoted to caring for children and disabled or elderly relatives, but there was again a gap between men (5.4 hours) and women (11.3 hours).

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia study released on Tuesday showed men spent more time on employment (on average 35.9 hours a week in 2016) than women (24.9 hours).

Melbourne Institute deputy director Professor Roger Wilkins said younger couples without children had a much more even division of labour at home and work, but the arrival of a first child changed matters.

Among married couples with children, women did 29 per cent of the paid work but about 65 per cent of both housework and care.

Prof Wilkins said women could be left in a more vulnerable financial position in a divorce, both in terms of their future earnings potential and superannuation after a career break.

The study also showed a clear gender divide in financial literacy, with men ahead of women.

“It does set off a bit of an alarm bell from a public policy point of view,” Prof Wilkins said, as there was a clear association between financial literacy and financial wellbeing.


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