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Studies show women still doing more unpaid work – but we can learn from the families who ‘share the care’

Parents At Work’s Kiri Stejko and her husband split the housework/childcare 50/50.

While men are now doing more housework than they’ve ever done before, studies are showing that the majority of the unpaid work is still falling to women.

The latest results from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (or HILDA – a nationally representative longitudinal study of Australian households), show that men did an average of 13.3 hours of housework per week in 2016, up from 12.4 hours in 2002.

This is of course welcome news, and the 2018 HILDA researchers have found that Australians are turning more away from the traditional gender-stereotypical roles when it comes to unpaid work vs paid work. But those attitudes aren’t being reflected in the actual reality of our daily routines.

Some of the recent findings include:

  • In childless de facto couples where both partners work full time, women do 54.6 per cent of housework
  • In couples with kids where both partners work full time, women do 57.8 per cent of housework and 58.8 per cent of child care
  • Among married couples with kids, women do 65 per cent of housework and 63 per cent of care duties in the family
  • Married women spend an average of 23.3 hours caring for their dependent children compared to only 11.0 hours by married men each week
  • Women in de facto relationships with kids spent 28.6 hours on child care, compared to 13.6 hours among their male counterparts
  • In traditional ‘man-as-breadwinner’ family arrangements with children, women do 72.8 per cent of the housework and 70 per cent of child care, on average.

A recent ABC Life article interviewed various couples who do share the care more evenly, and how they do it. 

Parents At Work’s own Kiri Stejko believes that it’s important for men to ask if they are eligible for parental leave, as many don’t realise they are even able to take it, and this can make a huge difference in sharing the caring within the home.

“If it’s not possible for the man to take parental leave, he could look into working flexibly to allow for more hands-on involvement with child care,” says Kiri. “Working from home to save on commute time; finishing early to take charge of evening care routines; and working a nine-day fortnight are all possibilities worth exploring.”

‘Gatekeeping’ – the idea that we sometimes don’t want to relinquish control of some chores to our partners in fear of them not doing it ‘properly’ – can often be a culprit when it comes to the uneven divide of household chores and child care.

“There is an issue of [women saying], “Well, I’ve been doing it because it’s really quick and easy for me, and I do it the way I like it to be done’,” explains Kiri. “There needs to be a shift — because you practically cannot work in whatever capacity you’re working and still have all the responsibility at home.”

To read the article in full and to get some practical tips on how other families are sharing the caring more evenly, read the full ABC Life article, ‘How to even up housework with your partner’, here.

Statistics taken from The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey.

Full article from ABC Life – published online 15 July 2019.