Household Chores Still Women’s Work

If you’re a woman who leaves the office feeling stressed about the work waiting for you at home–laundry, dishes and other household chores–you may not be alone.

According to a new study from Spain, published in Sex Roles, A Journal of Research, a majority of women in dual-income relationships report doing all or most of the housework while 33 percent of men admit to doing no housework at all. Despite taking on increased hours and larger responsibilities in the professional world, a staggering 55 percent of women in Spain report doing all of the housework while their spouses did none. Only 12 percent of the women surveyed said that they shared household responsibilities equally with their partners.

The study contextualized this issue against the backdrop of a changing society, where the proportion of women in Spain’s workforce rose from 20 percent to 41 percent in just a little more than two decades. However, this significant restructuring in the composition of the paid workforce did not lead to an equal rise in the proportion of men participating in unpaid work, which has implications for long-term quality of life as sharing housework was identified by 35 percent of women and 28 percent of men in Spain as the most important aspect in achieving equality of opportunity.

The study included responses from 2,877 people in dual-income relationships. Responses were taken from a larger national survey measuring quality of life issues, and were broken into subsets for women and men. Specifically, researchers assessed independent variables that could potentially explain the uneven distribution of household work. These variables included traditional values, role-strain and resource-bargaining.

Where traditional values were concerned, researchers found that older women who were more inclined to embrace traditional gender roles of men as breadwinners. Women with higher educational backgrounds shared more of the housework with men.

In role-strain, where paid and unpaid work was posed in constant conflict, researchers found that shorter work days and more flexibility in scheduling had some impact on the division of labor at home. In resource-bargaining, the partner with a higher earning, male or female, typically had more power to negotiate his or her way out of housework.

The overall results from the study showed men’s lower contribution appeared to be almost entirely attributable to the traditional gendered division of paid and unpaid work. In essence, even as the context of society changed to include more women in the working world, traditional gender roles still kept men from making significant contributions to household work.

Work-life balance plays a critical role in the overall quality of life, so that uneven distribution of responsibilities can lead to stress and anxiety, which in turn can lead to more serious depression. This study could help us perhaps understand other statistics that highlight differences between men and women, such as those from the CDC, which state that females in the United States are more likely to be diagnosed with depression (20.2 vs. 8.2 percent) and anxiety (14.3 vs. 8.2 percent) than are males.

These findings have implications for gender relations across multiple societies as women continue to make gains in the working world.

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