As workers were furloughed and schools closed, confining families to the home, housework and childcare increased. Articles and blog posts told of pressure on women to take on more and more.
Research coming out of USA, Canada, Germany, Turkey and the Netherlands has found men doing more domestic work during the pandemic than they did before it. But they haven’t closed the gap with women,
“Across the board, whether it’s dishwashing, laundry, childcare, reading to kids, physical care, we’re seeing a universal movement toward more egalitarian sharing,” says Dan Carlson, a sociologist at the University of Utah.
That movement may be in part because women dominate in some of the largest key worker sectors. In the USA, women are 76% of healthcare workers, about 80% of nurses, and close to 90% of home and personal care workers. Many of them have been forced to stay away from their families, whilst male partners are furloughed.
It may also be that where both parents are at home, the temporary merging of the work and domestic spheres has brought domestic labour out of the shadows.
NYT and USA Today surveys, in the USA, had discrepancy between men’s and women’s reports of who is doing what in the household. For example, in the NYT story, 80 per cent of women report doing the majority of homeschooling, and only three per cent of women report their male partners as the primary educator. Yet 45 per cent of men also claim to be doing most of the schooling.
Another US survey finds that 70% of women report being primarily responsible for home schooling during the pandemic, and only three per cent say their male partners are largely responsible. 20 per cent of men say they are doing the online educating.
Both men and women report men are doing more domestic work, but they differ on the proportions. Let’s hope that there are some conversations and discussions, to shift attitudes permanently, rather just discrepant perceptions reported to researchers, as this all shakes out in the months to come.