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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

General Social Survey: Paid and unpaid work


Women still do most of the housework and tend to feel more time-stressed than men do. But now more men are juggling household chores and paid work duties, while women are spending more time at the office, according to a new time-use study.

As a result, the gap between men and women in the division of labour is still there, but it is slowly getting narrower.

The study, the second in a series of four based on time use data from the 2005 General Social Survey, examined developments in time spent on paid work and unpaid household chores between 1986 and 2005.

During the past two decades, the average total workday for people aged 25 to 54 that includes both paid and unpaid work has increased steadily. In 2005, it amounted to 8.8 hours on average, up from 8.2 hours in 1986.

Although it does not sound like much, this gain of just over half an hour amounted to over 200 extra hours in paid and unpaid work last year compared with 1986, or the equivalent of about nine extra days.

On average, the entire increase came from paid labour, which rose from an average of 4.7 hours a day in 1986 to 5.4 hours last year, while unpaid work dropped slightly.

For men, however, most of the increase came from unpaid work around the house. In contrast, the gains for women came entirely from paid work.

While women have made dramatic breakthroughs in the job market, men have only gradually been getting into housework. However, the study shows that although gender differences in the division of labour are still evident, they are slowly breaking down.

The study also found that women generally tend to feel more stressed for time than men do, regardless of how long the workday is, or whether they have children.

The 2005 GSS asked 10,600 respondents aged 25 to 54 to keep a diary for 24 hours in which they estimated the total number of hours they spent on paid work and related paid activities, and on core and non-core housework. This time was averaged over a seven-day week.

More time at the office, particularly for women

Between 1986 and 2005, the workday became longer for both men and women — 0.6 hours for men and 0.7 hours for women.

Most of the increase for men came from unpaid work in the house, on which they spent 2.5 hours per day on average in 2005, up from 2.1 hours in 1986. The time they spent in paid labour also rose, from 6.1 to 6.3 hours.

However, the gain for women came entirely from paid work. In 2005, they spent an average of 4.4 hours at the office, up from 3.3 in 1986. This more than offset a half-hour decline in unpaid work from 4.8 hours to 4.3 hours.

Note to readers

This release is the second of a series of four on time use based on data from Cycle 19 of the General Social Survey (GSS) conducted in 2005. Previous such surveys were conducted in 1998, 1992 and 1986.

Today's article analyses overall trends in time spent by men and women on paid work versus unpaid work such as housework, child care and other household duties.

Future articles will analyze time spent in both leisure and work by Canadians aged 55 and over (July 26), and the impact of the internet on how Canadians spend their time (August 2).

An article analyzing the time Canadians spend commuting to work was published on July 12.

In the 2005 GSS, nearly 20,000 individuals aged 15 and over were asked to keep a diary over a 24-hour period recording details of the time they spent on various activities. These included everything from caring for children to participating in cultural or sporting activities to running errands. The survey covered the 10 provinces.

The jump in the average time women spend in paid labour is attributable not only to time spent on the job, but also to an increase in their participation rate. Canadian women have one of the highest labour force participation rates in the world, a rate that is converging with that of men.

For example, in 1986, the participation rate for men aged 25 to 54 was 94%, compared with only 70% for their female counterparts, a gap of 24 percentage points.

By 2005, the rate for men had edged down to 91%, while that for women had surged to 81%, a gap of only 10 points.

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Participation in housework up for men, down for women

On average, the proportion of men and women aged 25 to 54 who did some housework daily — whether it was making lunch, vacuuming, or taking out the garbage — rose from 72% in 1986 to 79% in 2005.

However, this increase was entirely attributable to men, whose participation rate rose from 54% to 69%. The participation rate for women remained steady at around 90%.

Changes in the daily participation rate for core housework, that is, meal preparation, meal clean-up, indoor cleaning, and laundry, were the most noticeable. For men, the rates rose from 40% to 59%, but for women they edged down from 88% to 85%.

Even though the proportion of people doing housework of some kind increased, the amount of time spent at it declined from an average of 2.7 hours per day in 1986 to 2.5 hours per day in 2005. All of the decline came from core housework.

Daily participation rates for housework continue to be significantly higher for women than for men in all family types. However, again the gap is narrowing.

For example, among married men with children, the participation rate rose from 54% to 71%. Furthermore, while the presence of a wife diminished men's involvement in housework in 1986 (single men had a participation rate of 61%, and married men 53%), roughly 7 out of every 10 married men, both with and without children, participated in housework in 2005.

Parity in labour found when wives have high income

High personal income, for either sex, is associated with spending more time at a job and less on housework.

For example, compared with those with an annual income less than $30,000, women with $100,000 or more did one hour more of paid work, and one hour less of housework per day. (Both did an average of 8.1 hours of total work per day.)

Longer job hours often bring higher earnings, which in turn can offer some relief from housework by providing the means to hire someone to do it.

In 2004, the Survey of Household Spending found that only 7% of households with less than $40,000 paid for domestic help, spending an average of $813. This compared with 43% of households with $160,000 or more, who spent $2,150.

When wives have an income of $100,000 or more, the division of paid labour and housework within couples is more likely to be split equally. In these couples, each partner spent about 6.5 hours per day on paid work and 1.5 hours on housework.

Furthermore, a wife's income is likely to influence the husband's time spent on housework as well as her own. For him, time spent doing housework rises along with her income, while for her, the time falls. On the other hand, regardless of her husband's income level, a wife's time spent on housework stays the same.

Although time-stressed, employed parents satisfied with life overall

Dual-earner couples who worked long days doing their job plus housework and who had dependent children at home were less satisfied with their work-life balance. They also felt more time-stressed, particularly women.

However, despite these stage-of-life pressures, the majority of dual-earner husbands and wives felt satisfied with their life as a whole, the study found.

Women generally tend to feel more time-stressed than men, regardless of length of workday or presence of children. For example, among couples with the longest workday and children at home, two-thirds of the women felt time-stressed compared with one-half of men.

Research has found that mothers, regardless of employment status, consistently feel more time-crunched than fathers.

Longer workdays and the presence of children also affect women more than men in terms of satisfaction with their work-life balance. Only 52% of women with children in couples with long hours felt satisfied with their work-life balance, the lowest rate overall. In contrast, 71% of their male counterparts were satisfied.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4503.

The article "Converging gender roles" is available in the July 2006 online edition of Perspectives on Labour and Income, Vol. 7, no. 7 (75-001-XIE, free). To obtain a copy, go to the Our Products and Services page on our website.

For more information, contact Katherine Marshall (613-951-6890;, Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. To enquire about concepts, methods or data quality pertaining to the General Social Survey on time use, contact Marcel Béchard, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division (613-951-6115;

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Date Modified: 2006-07-19 Important Notices