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Housework Performance

Women in most developed nations still do at least two-thirds of the family's routine housework and take responsibility for monitoring and supervising the work, even when they pay for domestic services or assign tasks to other family members (Coltrane 2000; Thompson and Walker 1989). Moreover, married women and those with children tend to perform an even greater proportion of housework than do single women and those without children. Married women in the United States do about three times as much routine housework as do married men. This pattern is consistent across many countries, with wives doing approximately 70 to 80 percent of the routine housework (Baxter 1997).

International studies of housework show that although women do far more housework than their male partners, their hours of housework are declining, and men are increasing their contributions slightly compared to earlier decades (United Nations 2000). Canadian, Australian, and Swedish men do slightly more housework than U.S. men, while Japanese men do less. Data from seven countries (Australia, France, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Republic of Korea) indicate that in the 1990s women performed more than twice as many hours of housework as men, with men in Korea and Japan reporting the least unpaid labor, and those in Latvia reporting the most. In most countries, women devote well over half of their work time to unpaid labor. Men, in contrast, spend about one-third or less of their work time on unpaid labor. Moreover, when small children are present, unpaid labor increases substantially more for women than for men. Averaging reports from three countries (Australia, the Netherlands, and New Zealand) show an increase in women's unpaid labor of twelve hours per week when children are present, as opposed to an increase of less than two hours per week for men (United Nations 2000).

Developed countries have long used time-use surveys to assess what men and women do on a daily basis, but developing countries are only starting to use such surveys. At least twenty-two countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean have begun work on national time-use surveys since 1995, but results are not yet widely available (United Nations 2000). Thus, few comparisons have been made to less developed countries, though it has been found that three out of five Asian countries have greater rates of sharing housework than does the United States (Sanchez 1994).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsHousework - History Of Housework, What Is Housework?, Housework Performance, Predictors Of Men's Sharing