I Think I’m Bringing Down The Average

So I was reading a Stats Can report the other day1 and came across some interesting data on housework2,3:

Time spent on domestic work varied among women according to their working arrangements. Among women who were working at the time of the survey, those who were part of a dual-earner couple and worked part-time spent the most time on domestic work—an average of 21.0 hours per week. Less time was spent on domestic work by full-time working women who were part of a dual-earner couple (13.9 hours per week), or women who were the sole wage earner in a single-earner couple (15.2 hours per week). The least amount of time was spent by single working women. On average, they spent 7.7 hours per week on domestic work. [emphasis mine]

To me, this seems like quite a drastic difference! Women who were part of a dual-income couple did quite a bit more housework (13.9 hrs per week if they worked full-time and 21 hrs per week if they worked part-time) than single women (7.7 hrs per week). Most surprisingly, women who were in a couple where their partner didn’t do any paid work did more housework (15.2 hrs per week) than women in couples where their partner did paid work (13.9 hrs per week)! Shouldn’t they be doing less housework?

To me, the most striking question from all of this is: how come single women need so much less housework done than coupled women? Remember, the data on coupled women is only the housework being done by the women – there is also housework being done by their partner! For example, in couples where both partners work full-time, the women do 13.9 hrs and the men do 8.6 hrs for a total of 22.5 hrs per week. Compared to the single women doing 7.7 hrs per week, that’s nearly three times as much housework being done in that household4! I realize there there is a bit more housework to be done when two people live in a house – twice as many dishes, twice as much laundry – but the total workload shouldn’t even be twice as much as there are some things that don’t take longer by having more people in the house (e.g., vaccuuming). I suppose some of the extra workload could be attributed to housework related to children that isn’t child care per se (e.g., I know from my friends with kids that they generate a heck of a lot of laundry, especially when they are very little), but would this make the workload three times as much? I suppose it’s possible that single women are more likely to hire, say, a housekeeper, since they don’t have anyone else in their house to share the housework with, but that data wasn’t provided. Another possibility is that more single people rent (as opposed to owning a place) compared to coupled people5 and owning comes along with more maintanance tasks that renters don’t need to worry about (e.g., fixing things, cleaning gutters). Any other thoughts on why single people do so much less housework than coupled people? Or am I just bringing down the average?

Another thing in the report is, not surprisingly, that women do more of the unpaid domestic chores than men (on average) and men do more paid work than women (again, on average). But apparently that’s changing:

During the past quarter century, the involvement of men and women in paid work and housework has changed. A study1 comparing three generations of young people—the late baby boomers (born 1957 to 1966), Generation X (1969 to 1978) and Generation Y (1981 to 1990) found an increasing similarity in the involvement in paid work and housework between men and women from the late baby boomers to those in Generation Y.

Despite the narrowing of the differences, men continue to have an overall greater involvement in paid work than women, and a lesser involvement in housework.

For example, at ages 20 to 29, late baby boom men did on average 1.4 hours more paid work per day than women. In Generation Y, this difference had narrowed to 1.1 hours.

Late baby boom women, when they were aged 20 to 29, did 1.2 hours more housework per day than men. By the time Generation Y arrived at the same age group, the difference had narrowed to 0.4 hours. This was due entirely to a decrease in the time women spent on housework.

When looking only at dual-earner couples, the dominant family form since the 1980s, the study found that young adults are increasingly sharing economic and domestic responsibilities. As women have increased their hours of paid work, men have steadily increased their share of household work.

Women aged 20 to 29 in dual-earner couples in Generation Y did an average of 6.7 hours of paid work per day in 2010, up from 6.4 hours for their counterparts in Generation X.

On the other hand, dual-earner women in Generation Y did 53% of the total housework done by couples, down from 59% for their counterparts in Generation X.

Average daily time spent on paid work and housework by men and women in young dual-earner couples is more similar for those without children and particularly so for Generation Y.

However, for both Generation X and Y, with the presence of dependent children at home, the contribution of women to a couple’s total paid work time declined while their contribution to housework increased.

My question about all this is: only 6.7 hours per day of paid work? Pfft! I could do that in my sleep!

  1. What, you don’t read Stats Canada reports?? []
  2. What, you don’t think data on housework is “interesting”? []
  3. Note that “housework” did not include child care, which was discussed in a separate part of the report. Housework included unpaid domestic work such as “housework, yard work and home maintenance.” []
  4. Single men do 6.1 hrs per week, meaning there is nearly four times as much housework being done in household of a dual earner full-time working couple []
  5. This may be my Vancouver-based assumption, given that it’s nearly impossible to own a place on a single income here. Hell, it’s nearly impossible to own a place on two incomes here! []

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