Who works the most, men or women?
Thinking back to filling in the Census form in 2011, there were two questions on that form which generated the most interest in the general public, and the most discussion in the media. One was Religion, and the question of how many people would answer Jedi. The other was the question on domestic work, and the inevitable arguments among couples about who does the most.
Well the good news is that with the addition of gender to most profile.id topics, we can answer that question! It’s a bit of a minefield, but I’m going to attempt to look at not just domestic work, but which gender does the most work overall, to see if we can answer that question just using Census data. If you want to send hate mail, .id’s address is at the bottom…
The title of this post is deliberately provocative. But first, some parameters – The Census question asks “In the last week did the person spend time doing unpaid domestic work for their household?”, and then a range of tick boxes for various numbers of hours. For a start it relates to the week prior to Census only. So 26% of males and 17% of females answered that they didn’t lift a finger for domestic work in that week. Perhaps they were on holiday? Or they just lived in a really messy house?
Secondly, the ranges are pretty coarse. There are only 4 options – less than 5 hours, 5-14, 15-29 and 30+ hours. Thirdly, I think they have to be this way because who can remember exactly how much domestic work they’ve done in the last week? I’d only have a vague idea.
Having got all that out of the way, let’s answer the question!
Australia-wide, 64% of males and 75% of females did at least some domestic work in the week prior to Census 2011. These percentages were largely unchanged since 2006.
This chart shows that yes, females did substantially more domestic work than males in the week prior to Census, with approximately twice as many in the 15-29 and 30+ hours categories, and a similar amount in the 5-14 hour category. Only in the less than 5 hours and no domestic work categories were males found in greater proportions.
So yes, women do more work around the home, as I think most people knew. If you took the midpoint of these (as I said, fairly coarse) ranges, the mean number of hours of domestic work done by women is 13.4 hours per week and by men is 6.7 hours per week (interestingly, that means women do exactly twice as much as men, on average).
However, the trade-off has always been that women do less paid work. Far more women entered the workforce from the 1970s to today, so is this still the case, or is it an antiquated view?
Firstly, the participation rate (the proportion of people over the age of 15 actually employed or looking for work) is 71.0% for males, and 58.5% for females nationwide (Source: 6202.0 Labour Force Australia, ABS). Female participation in the workforce has risen from 43.5% in 1978, so up by 15 percentage points. At the same time male participation has fallen by 8 percentage points from 79.4%.
economy.id has information on paid work done by gender. All our economy.id clients can make direct gender comparisons by industry and a number of other characteristics. Hours worked is collected in the Census for all employed persons, and the comparisons between the genders are in the chart below.
As you can see, while participation rates have become closer together, there is still a vast difference in the number of weekly hours worked by males and females. With much of the child care responsibilities still falling on females, as well as a higher level of domestic work, females’ paid work was far lower than males.
There are 50% more males working a 40 hour week, twice as many working 41-48 hours and three times as many working 49 hours or more. In contrast, most of those doing 0-25 hour working weeks are female. This also reflects in the industries of employment for males and females, with females dominating industries such as Health Care and Retail which have a majority part-time employment.
If you multiply all this out, you arrive at these averages, across both sexes for the whole country:
- Males – 39.5 hours per week paid work
- Females – 30.2 hours per week paid work
This is a difference of 9.3 hours
Adding in the average domestic work of 6.7 hours for males and 13.4 hours for females and we arrive at:
- Males – 46.2 hours total paid and unpaid work
- Females – 43.6 hours total paid and unpaid work
These numbers are actually very close, and perhaps indicate that there isn’t too much difference between the sexes after all.
To be fair though – child care is not included as domestic work (though washing, cleaning etc. for children is), and we know that 21.3% of females and 18.3% of males provided child care to their own children. Unfortunately the Census doesn’t ask the number of hours for this activity, so we can’t quantify it. It is likely that this would tip the balance towards women working more hours.
On the other hand, we haven’t here included those women of working age who are not in the labour force at all – the participation rate gap is closing but still significant. So this may balance out as well.
An interesting exercise is to look at domestic work done only by people who are in full time work (35 hours or more per week). When we restrict domestic work figures only to full-time employed males and females, we get a very interesting result (Census 2011, direct from ABS, not in profile.id)
- Males – 6.1 hours of domestic work per week
- Females – 10.1 hours of domestic work per week
So, for males working full-time, domestic work reduces just slightly, by 0.6 hours per week. For females working full-time, this reduces their hours of domestic work by 3.3 hours per week.
Finally let’s pull that together – remember even among the full-time workers, more females were in the 35-40 hour zone and more males over 40. So factoring that in (males 46.1, females 42.8), the total hours worked for full-time workers, including domestic work is:
- Males – 52.2 hours per week
- Females – 52.9 hours per week
Yes, I know that there are a lot of assumptions in here. Yes, I know there are a lot of caveats about self-responded questions and how people answer them. I know that domestic work is collected in wide ranges while hours worked is exact. I know that not everyone knows exactly how long they worked, and that’s why hours worked is clumpy (more at 30, 35 and 40 hours than any number in between). Yes, I know that both women and men make trade-offs between family and employment. This is not meant to be a rigorous study.
However, since those two numbers are so close, I think this is a good place to finish, so I don’t get in too much trouble with anyone!
You can now see domestic work and employment status by gender on profile.id for your council area by suburb, and hours worked in paid employment for your residents and workforce in economy.id, also by gender. If you don’t have either of these tools and are interested in taking a look, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image credit: brookefuller / 123RF Stock Photo