Contrary to feminist claims, the sexes on average do equal amounts of work during their lifetimesby Catherine Hakim / August 1, 2007 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2007 issue of Prospect Magazine
Do women put in more work hours than men? It is one of the most commonplace arguments, conducted in kitchens and sitting rooms throughout the land. Until now there have been two answers—men did more paid work and women more unpaid work—and because the latter was unquantified, there was no way of comparing the two workloads.
The lack of hard data has not stopped many people from stressing the “double shift” that many women do: full-time or part-time paid work followed by countless hours of unpaid work in households (childcare, domestic work, family work) as well as countless hours of voluntary work in local communities which are essential for maintaining the social fabric. Sociologists have turned to qualitative research and case studies to prove that it is women who work the longest hours—due to those invisible, uncounted hours of unpaid work in the home that prop up the formal market economy.
Two studies, in particular, have attained almost iconic status. In Britain, Ann Oakley’s Housewife catalogues the unremitting 18-hour work days of mothers with no jobs but with children under five at home. In the US, Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift details the domestic work and childcare done by women after they return home from their full-time day jobs. The trouble is, these case studies invariably focus on women with babies or young children at home—a relatively temporary phase within the life cycle. Critics have argued that such studies cannot be representative of women generally.
But a completely new kind of government survey is now shedding light on this debate. Time budget studies, or time use surveys, measure all forms of work and activity, not just employment. These surveys ask people to record their activities every hour (or every 15 minutes) of the day, for one week or one day (chosen at random), using a time diary. The earliest and best-known time use surveys are those carried out by the BBC, to monitor how…