The Age

Working women come home to 'second shift'

The Age (Melbourne)
Thursday 30 November 2000

The revolution that admitted women into the workplace was supposed to produce "new families", in which men and women shared the cooking and cleaning as well as the breadwinning responsibilities and taught their children to do the same.

But research to be presented today at the Australian Population Association conference shows women in the workforce do not necessarily have an easier lot in domestic life than women who do not work.

Although the study, by Australian National University researcher Edith Gray, shows there is more sharing of household chores when women work, it also suggests traditional roles prevail - women do "indoor jobs" such as the laundry and the vacuuming, while men tend to do the "outdoor jobs" such as mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage.

Young couples without children divided the housework more evenly, Ms Gray discovered, but the honeymoon ended when children arrived.

"This suggests that younger generations are subject to the same division of household labor as older cohorts."

She found women's participation in the labor force had "led to a situation where women do paid labor with little reduction in home-based labor".

In effect, Ms Gray said, they were doing a "second shift" of work.

She noted that social researchers had been surprised to find that men had been sluggish when it came to taking on more of the domestic workload when their partners entered the workforce. The study, which investigates whether women or men take responsibility for basic household chores, builds on research presented at the same conference two years ago, which portrayed women as being trapped in a traditional "male bread-winner" view of family life.

But as responsibilities such as childrearing increased, the equal division of household work between men and women diminished.

"Involvement in the labor force does little to moderate responsibility," concluded Ms Gray, from ANU's Research School of Social Sciences.

The last study showed women were twice as likely to be primarily responsible for chores such as cleaning, shopping, ironing, washing and cooking meals once they became mothers.

Copyright The Age Company Ltd 2000.