Women living with their partners in the UK spend an average of two working days a month more than men on housework and childcare, according to a new Oxfam poll.
Published ahead of Mother’s Day this Sunday and International Women’s Day next Tuesday, the results highlight how women are still taking on the majority of household responsibilities. Globally, this unpaid work by women such as cooking, cleaning and childcare could be valued as much as $10 trillion a year – 13 per cent of global GDP – with the world’s poorest women doing the most.
Oxfam says the unfair proportion of household chores is just one example of discrimination that is holding women back around the world. Oxfam argues only when women are unlimited can poverty be undone for everyone.
The survey conducted by OnePoll questioned 2,000 UK men and women currently living with their partners. It found that on average, women spend over a quarter (28%) more time on housework and nearly a third (31%) more time on childcare than their partners.
Irrespective of income and employment status, women surveyed said that they generally do more of the domestic tasks in their households, with women in both full-time and part-time employment providing a greater share of the household responsibilities. The poll found over two thirds (67%) of women feel they do the bulk of housework compared to nearly one fifth (18%) of men. It also revealed that over a quarter of women (28%) think their partner doesn’t do their fair share around the home in contrast to just seven per cent of men.
Results showed that the only tasks that men spend more time on than women are DIY and taking out the bins. These were also the tasks, along with paying/sorting household bills which men were most likely to take the majority of responsibility for, indicating that household chores are still divided along traditional gender lines. Laundry is the domestic task with the biggest disparity of time spent between the sexes, with women spending an additional 54 per cent of time on this compared to men.
- In London, women spent nearly a third (32%) more time on childcare than men and almost 60 per cent (59%) of women said they do the bulk of the housework compared to 22 per cent of men.
- In the South East, over three quarters of women (76%) said they do the bulk of the housework compared to 13 per cent of men. Women also spend 33 per cent more time on housework and 29 per cent more time on childcare.
- In the North West, 29 per cent of women think that their partner doesn’t do their fair share compared to just five per cent of men.
- In the South West, 71 per cent of women said they do the bulk of the housework compared to nine per cent of men. 34 per cent of women also think that their partner doesn’t do their fair share of domestic tasks compared to just four per cent of men.
- In the West Midlands, nearly two thirds (63%) of women said they do the bulk of the housework compared to nearly a quarter of men (22%). 30 per cent of women also think that their partner doesn’t do their fair share compared to just nine per cent of men.
- In Yorkshire and the Humber women spend a quarter (25%) more time on housework than men. Nearly three quarters (73%) of women said that they do the bulk of the housework compared to 17 per cent of men.
Oxfam’s Head of UK Policy and Campaigns, Sally Copley, said “Despite huge social changes in the UK, women are still taking on the bulk of household chores and childcare, juggling their multiple responsibilities, often with little financial reward. This is just a glimpse of the ongoing inequality women around the world face – an inequality which is far starker and debilitating for those living in the world’s poorest communities.
“We must all play our part to free women from inequality so they can improve their lives and we can move closer to winning the fight against poverty for all.”
The sheer volume of unpaid work holds women back because of the time involved. Women in poorer countries face even higher inequality in care work because a lack of infrastructure, technology and public services means they spend more time in their day looking after their home and family. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women spend 5 billion hours a year collecting water because there are often no water sources nearby.
Oxfam says that public services like universal healthcare and access to water and electricity are some of the most direct and effective ways to redistribute the heavy workload of care away from women in the poorest countries. The introduction of and improvement of maternity and paternity leave, as well as sick pay and pensions would also provide the necessary support and flexibility to address the imbalance.
More generally, Oxfam has seen that access to decent employment, health and education, freedom from violence and participation in decision making not only improves women and girls’ life chances but also benefits their children, lifts whole households out of poverty and increases the productivity of entire economies.
While progress has been made, the pace is too slow. At the current rate, it will take 118 years for the gender pay gap around the world to be closed. The average global pay gap is 24 per cent while in the UK, men on average earn 13.9 per cent more than women.