The Independent

Tuesday, August 10, 1999


The Independent

NO ONE is doing the housework. Families in the 1990s spend much less time cleaning and looking after their households that they did 30 years ago.

Experts believe that dirty laundry, a backlog of bills and outstanding repairs are common in today's households, and will continue to put additional stress on family life as more women enter the workplace.

Women are doing less housework than ever because they are working longer hours in paid work, marrying later and having fewer children. And although men now do more household chores than in the 1960s, the time they put in has levelled off in the past 10 years.

Sociologists from the University of Maryland have found that one-fifth of the housework went undone in 1995 compared with 1965.

Women still do more at home than their husbands. Men spend up to 10 hours a week doing cleaning, cooking, paying the bills, and outdoor repair work, while women put in 17.5 hours a week.

"This study underscores the dramatic changes in the performance of unpaid house labour since the 1960s," said Suzanne Bianchi, a researcher from the department of sociology at the University of Maryland and the author of the report. "Much less housework is being done. This is especially notable in homes that have become significantly larger during this time, suggesting a greater need for cleaning."

Men are not making up for the decline in women's willingness to do the housework. "In absolute hours, husbands have not increased their time in housework since 1985, although relative to their wives, who are shedding their unpaid work, husbands' proportion has continued to climb to 33 per cent of housework hours," she told the American Sociological Association's annual meeting in Chicago.

In the study of 6,740 men and women aged 25 to 64, who answered questionnaires from four national surveys in 1965, 1975, 1985 and 1995, time spent on housework was assessed by reporting on eight different activities. Housework was defined as time spent on cooking meals, washing up, cleaning the house, washing and ironing, outdoor chores, repairs, garden and animal care, and bills and other financial accounting.

The findings showed that in 1965 women spent six times longer on household chores than men, compared with 1.8 times in 1995.

Cooking was the area where men and women were the most equal, with women spending 4.6 hours a week cooking compared with 1.6 hours for men.