Volume 46 - Article 34 | Pages 1007–1036

Who took care of what? The gender division of unpaid work during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in France

By Marta Pasqualini, Marta Dominguez Folgueras, Emanuele Ferragina, Olivier Godechot, Ettore Recchi, Mirna Safi

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Date received:23 Nov 2021
Date published:24 May 2022
Word count:7912
Keywords:COVID-19, France, gender equality, panel studies, unpaid work


Background: France was one of the first countries implementing lockdown measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Since families spent more time at home, household and care workloads increased significantly. However, existing findings are mixed in terms of whether this situation contributed to a more gender-egalitarian division of unpaid work.

Objective: This paper explores the division of domestic work within couples across two different COVID-19 lockdowns and compares them to the out-of-lockdown period in France. We use the theoretical lenses of time availability, relative resources, and ‘doing gender’ to make sense of these changes.

Methods: Our longitudinal analyses rely on an original panel study we collected in France between April 2020 and April 2021. It includes a sample of 1,959 observations (of 809 individuals living in couples). We employ the different types of restrictions to mobility and social life imposed during the first year of the pandemic as a contextual background, within which we measure the main drivers of change in the division of unpaid work within couples. We use individual fixed effect regression models to estimate changes in men’s share of unpaid work by time, changes in work conditions, partners’ educational gaps, and types of domestic tasks.

Results: The first lockdown contributed to a slight rebalancing of unpaid work within couples. However, our results show an impact of both absolute and relative time availability on men’s share of unpaid work and that the overall rebalancing of unpaid work hides highly gendered patterns. Indeed, we find men doing more shopping and women doing more child care. This gendered division of labour is slightly more prevalent among couples in which the man is more educated than his partner.

Contribution: Our findings suggest the reaffirmation of traditional gender roles even during the exceptional first year of the pandemic in France.

Author's Affiliation

Marta Pasqualini - Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza, Italy [Email]
Marta Dominguez Folgueras - Observatoire Sociologique du Changement (OSC), France [Email]
Emanuele Ferragina - Observatoire Sociologique du Changement (OSC), France [Email]
Olivier Godechot - Observatoire Sociologique du Changement (OSC), France [Email]
Ettore Recchi - Observatoire Sociologique du Changement (OSC), France [Email]
Mirna Safi - Observatoire Sociologique du Changement (OSC), France [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Women’s changing socioeconomic position and union formation in Spain and Portugal
Volume 19 - Article 41

» Not truly partnerless: Non-residential partnerships and retreat from marriage in Spain
Volume 18 - Article 16

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