Volume 50 - Article 19 | Pages 503–514  

Housework time and task segregation: Revisiting gender inequality among parents in 15 European countries

By Joan García Román, Ariane Ophir


Background: Although most countries show a general convergence in men’s and women’s investment in domestic labor, women continue doing more housework, especially among couples with children. However, cross-national descriptive estimates have focused exclusively on routine tasks, thus overlooking potential change in gender inequality in non-routine tasks, as well as the total housework investment, which varies significantly across countries.

Objective: Our aims are twofold: (1) to provide the most recent estimates of housework investments from time-use diaries across all tasks, (2) to describe the relationships between total housework investment, gender inequality, and gender task segregation.

Methods: Using the Harmonized European Time Use Survey (HETUS), we focus on different-sex couples living with children under the age of 18 across 15 European countries (n = 74,630). We measure housework across six primary tasks: cooking, cleaning, laundry, maintenance, gardening and pet care, and household administration.

Results: Mothers continue doing more housework than fathers across all 15 countries. The gender gap in housework is higher in countries with higher levels of total housework investment. However, we also find descriptive evidence that non-routine ‘male-typed’ tasks might be becoming gender-neutral.

Conclusions: Housework scholars should re-visit the typology of task segregation and focus on a comparative investigation of the meaning and standards of housework and their relationship with gender inequality.

Contribution: This note draws attention to the role of the total housework investment in driving cross-national variation in gender inequality, and the importance of a comparative perspective within gender for understanding task segregation.

Author's Affiliation

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