Volume 36 - Article 18 | Pages 557–588

Domestic division of labour and fertility preference in China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan

By Man-Yee Kan, Ekaterina Hertog

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Date received:22 Jul 2016
Date published:10 Feb 2017
Word count:8200
Keywords:domestic work, fertility, gender equality, gender revolution, new home economics theory
Weblink:You will find all publications in this Special Collection on “Domestic Division of Labour and Fertility Choice in East Asia” here.


Background: Research on Western countries suggests that how couples share housework responsibilities has a significant impact on their fertility choices. The gender revolution framework offers an explanation for this relationship, but so far its applicability has not been tested on non-Western cases.

Objective: This paper investigates whether male housework participation is associated with the number of children married couples aspire to in China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Methods: Using data from the East Asian Social Survey 2006, we provide a descriptive account of housework participation by gender and country and actual and ideal numbers of children by country. This is followed by OLS regression models testing the associations between male and female housework contributions and the ideal numbers of children.

Results: In all four countries, women do much more housework than men. For men, there is no consistent pattern across the four countries linking household participation and fertility preferences. The pattern for women, by contrast, is consistent across the cases: husbands’ greater involvement in housework is associated with wives’ desire for more children.

Conclusions: Theoretically, our findings suggest that low fertility in East Asia is linked to women’s heavy housework burden. Our findings suggest that the gender revolution framework offers the best explanation for East Asian childbearing trends, and that low fertility trends in the region are likely to persist.

Contribution: On a theoretical level this paper is the first to widen the framework for understanding current fertility trends in East Asia to include domestic work participation. On an empirical level this is the first paper to test the link between fathers’ housework contributions and fertility in East Asia.

Author's Affiliation

Man-Yee Kan - University of Oxford, United Kingdom [Email]
Ekaterina Hertog - University of Oxford, United Kingdom [Email]

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