LogoSharing household tasks: Teaming up during the COVID-19 pandemic

by Clémence Zossou

Release date: February 15, 2021

Lockdowns were put in place at the beginning of the pandemic to slow the spread of COVID-19. For Canadian families, this meant telework, school and daycare closures, online classes, and cancelled extracurricular activities. In addition, outings were limited.

These measures, which affected Canadian families throughout the pandemic, also altered dynamics within households. How couplesNote 1 shared household tasks during these unprecedented times is therefore worth examining. Before the pandemic, and regardless of employment status, women spent more time than men doing household tasks and more often adjusted their schedule to meet the needs of their family.Note 2

This analysis shows how couplesNote 3 in Canada shared household tasks in the early months of the pandemic. It looks at the differences between women and men in how these tasks were shared and the level of satisfaction with their allocation. The impact of having children in the household or not, and of the significant increase in teleworkNote 4, is also examined.

This article is based on data from the third wave of the Canadian Perspectives Survey Series, which took place from June 15 to 21, 2020. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Statistics Canada has been conducting this series of surveys, which is statistically representative of the Canadian population. This specific survey dealt with, among other topics, the distribution of household tasks among couples living together.

Canadians’ satisfaction with the distribution of household tasks remained the same during the pandemic

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 7 in 10 Canadians (68%) reported being satisfied with how household tasks were shared with their spouse or partner. However, the level of satisfaction varied by respondent age and sex.

A higher proportion of individuals aged 55 and older (74%) said they were satisfied with the distribution of household tasks, compared with people younger than 55 (63%). This difference is more pronounced among women—57% of women younger than 55 were satisfied with the distribution of household tasks, compared with 72% of women aged 55 and older.

In terms of sex differences, women (16%) were nearly twice as likely as men (9%) to be dissatisfied with the distribution of household tasks during the pandemic. One-fifth (20%) of both women and men were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

Regardless of the task, women were more satisfied when their spouse took care of tasks or when they shared the tasks equally, compared with when they were mostly responsible for them (Chart 1). For example, more women were satisfied with the distribution of housework when this task was mostly done by the man (82%) or shared equally (80%) than when they had to do it themselves (50%).

Chart 1

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1. The information is grouped by Household tasks (appearing as row headers), Mostly men, Shared equally and Mostly women, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Household tasks Mostly men Shared equally Mostly women
percent
Doing the
dishes
74.0Note * 76.8Note * 48.0
Housework 82.4Note * 79.8Note * 49.8
Laundry 75.5Note * 72.8Note * 57.4
Meal
preparation
73.0Note * 77.0Note * 54.9
Household finances 70.3Note * 65.0 58.6
Grocery
shopping
69.6Note * 72.9Note * 53.3

Finally, for the vast majority (86%) of people in a couple, the level of satisfaction with the allocation of household tasks was the same as before the pandemic. Men (88%) were more likely than women (83%) to report that their level of satisfaction was the same as before the pandemic.

Just under 1 in 10 Canadians (8%) reported that they were more satisfied with the allocation of household chores during the pandemic than before. Overall, there is no statistically significant difference between the proportions of men (7%Note 5) and women (9%) who said their level of satisfaction had improved.

People younger than 55 (10%) were more likely than people aged 55 and older (6%Note 6) to report that their level of satisfaction had improved.

Types of household tasks differed between women and men

During the pandemic, the household tasks most likely to be done by women were laundry and meal preparation. Nearly 6 in 10 Canadians (56%) living in a couple reported that the laundry was mostly done by the woman, compared with 16% who said the man mostly undertook this task. About half (48%) said the woman mostly prepared the meals, while only 16% said this task was mostly done by the man (Table 1).

Meanwhile, 4 in 10 people in couples reported that the man mostly took care of the household finances, compared with 30% who said this was done mostly by the woman.

Doing the dishes (45%) and doing housework (43%) were the household tasks most likely to be shared equally between the woman and the man during the pandemic.


Table 1
Distribution of household tasks between women and men
Table summary
This table displays the results of Distribution of household tasks between women and men. The information is grouped by Household tasks (appearing as row headers), Tasks mostly done by women, Tasks mostly done by men and Tasks shared equally, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Household tasks Tasks mostly done by women Tasks mostly done by men Tasks shared equally
percent
Doing the dishes 31.1 21.7Note * 44.9Note *
Housework 42.3 13.7Note * 42.5
Laundry 55.9 15.8Note * 27.4Note *
Meal preparation 47.5 16.1Note * 35.5Note *
Household finances 30.3 40.2Note * 28.9
Grocery shopping 36.6 30.3Note * 30.7Note *

Men were more likely to contribute to household tasks during the pandemic than in 2017

Data from the General Social Survey on the distribution of household tasks were used to compare the current situation with the context observed in 2017 (which represents the most recent data from this survey).

Generally speaking, the distribution of household tasks did not change much from 2017Note 7 to 2020. However, men were more likely to contribute to household tasks in 2020 than in 2017. Their participation increased for all household tasks. For example, the proportion of men who did the grocery shopping doubled during the pandemic, from 15% to 30%; the same was true for the proportion of men who did the laundry, which went from 8% to 16% (Chart 2). In addition, the proportion of men who took care of household finances rose from 34% in 2017 to 40% in 2020.

Men’s increased contribution to certain household tasks may be attributable to men spending more time at home because of the pandemic. However, the presence of children is also thought to be an important factor. Women who took on care or education of children— an almost continuous responsibility in the first few months of the pandemic—likely had less time for household tasks. Compared with 2017, women's participation in meal preparation and laundry declined during the pandemic (Chart 3), while, on the other hand, women were more likely than men to report that they were mostly responsible for parenting tasks.Note 8 Specifically, 64% of women were primarily responsible for home schooling and helping with homework, an additional task for parents during the pandemic, versus 19% of men.

Chart 2

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Household tasks (appearing as row headers), 2017 and COVID-19 pandemic, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Household tasks 2017 COVID-19 pandemic
percent
Doing the dishes 15.5 21.7Note *
Housework 8.3 13.7Note *
Laundry 7.6 15.8Note *
Meal preparation 10.8 16.1Note *
Household finances 33.8 40.2Note *
Grocery shopping 15.2 30.3Note *

Chart 3

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3. The information is grouped by Household tasks (appearing as row headers), 2017 and COVID-19 pandemic, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Household tasks 2017 COVID-19 pandemic
percent
Doing the
dishes
31.9 31.1
Housework 44.6 42.3
Laundry 60.5 55.9Note *
Meal
preparation
56.0 47.5Note *
Household finances 31.3 30.3
Grocery
shopping
35.6 36.6

The presence of children younger than 6 in the household affected men’s participation in certain household tasks

The presence of young children in the household has an impact on the distribution of household tasks, particularly for men. About one-third (30%) of Canadians said grocery shopping was mostly done by the man. However, this proportion increased to 42% when there was at least one child younger than 6 in the household (Table 2).

Conversely, housework was half as likely to be done mostly by the man when there were children younger than 6 in the household (7%) than when there were no children or only adult children (16%).


Table 2
Proportion of people who reported that household tasks were mostly done by the man, by the age of the youngest child in the household
Table summary
This table displays the results of Proportion of people who reported that household tasks were mostly done by the man. The information is grouped by Household tasks (appearing as row headers), Presence of children under the age of 6 in the household, Presence of children between 6 and 17 years in the household and No children or only adult children in the household, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Household tasks Presence of children under the age of 6 in the household Presence of children between 6 and 17 years in the household No children or only adult children in the household
percent
Doing the dishes 24.4 19.3 21.6
Housework 7.3 Note * Note E: Use with caution 9.9 Note * Note E: Use with caution 16.3
Laundry 14.0 Note E: Use with caution 14.8 Note E: Use with caution 16.5
Meal preparation 12.5 Note E: Use with caution 13.8 Note E: Use with caution 17.7
Household finances 46.0 36.1 39.9
Grocery shopping 42.1 Note * 28.7 27.8

Telework does not affect how Canadian couples share household tasks

During the pandemic, telework became far more common. In June 2020, 39%Note 9 of Canadians had worked remotely, compared with 17% before the pandemic. Women (44%) were more likely than men (35%) to have worked remotely. Before the pandemic, there was very little difference between men and women (16% versus 18% respectively).

However, telework does not seem to have had an impact on couples’ distribution of household tasks, except for meal preparation by men. Equal proportionsNote 10 of Canadians who worked remotely and who worked outside the home reported that household tasks were mostly done by the woman (Chart 4).

Chart 4

Data table for Chart 4 
Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4. The information is grouped by Household tasks (appearing as row headers), Worked at home - Mostly women, Worked outside of the home - Mostly women, Worked at home - Mostly men and Worked outside of the home - Mostly men, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Household tasks Worked at home - Mostly women Worked outside of the home - Mostly women Worked at home - Mostly men Worked outside of the home - Mostly men
percent
Doing the
dishes
24.5 31.0 25.1 21.6
Housework 36.9 43.7 14.5 12.0
Laundry 50.8 54.9 15.4 15.6
Meal
preparation
41.3 48.9 20.1 13.1Note *
Household finances 29.9 26.6 39.7 40.2
Grocery
shopping
33.8 38.6 35.7 28.6

Conclusion

Despite women having to balance work and family life now more than ever, they still do most household tasks. Although women were less likely to be mostly responsible for laundry and meal preparation during the pandemic compared with 2017, no significant changes were observed in their participation in other household tasks.

In light of these findings, certain questions arise about whether the trends or changes observed in the early months of the pandemic will remain after life returns to “normal.” Will a new post-pandemic survey confirm the trends observed in 2020, or will it show that these were only temporary changes brought on by exceptional circumstances?

Methodology

The data used in this analysis are from Statistics Canada’s new Canadian Perspectives Survey Series (CPSS), the 2017 General Social Survey (GSS) on Family and the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

The CPSS represents a panel of Canadians who agreed to complete a certain number of short online surveys. Since the CPSS is a probabilistic panel based on the LFS, it is representative of the general population. The CPSS enables Statistics Canada to collect important information from Canadians more effectively, more rapidly and at a lower cost, compared with traditional survey methods. The first iteration of the CPSS took place from March 29 to April 3 and collected information from 4,600 respondents. The second iteration was conducted from May 4 to 10, with most of the same respondents. The third iteration, which was used in this article, took place from June 15 to 21 and had 4,209 respondents. Statistics Canada would like to thank the Canadians who took the time to answer the survey questions during this time of crisis.

CPSS and LFS data were linked to derive two important variables for the analysis (sex of spouse or partner, and presence of children younger than 6 in the household) that were not available in the CPSS.

Finally, the GSS on Family is used to monitor trends and changes that take place in Canadian families. It collects information on conjugal and parental history (chronology of marriages, common-law unions and arrival of children), family history, children leaving parent’s home, fertility intentions, and other socioeconomic characteristics. The 2017 GSS target population includes non-institutionalized people aged 15 and older who live in one of the 10 Canadian provinces. This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design. The data were collected directly from respondents using the computer-assisted telephone interview method.

This analysis looks at people in Canada aged 20 and older who were married or in a common-law union at the time of the survey. Only respondents living in the same dwelling as their opposite-sex spouse or partner were taken into account.

References

LECLERC, Karine. 2020. “Caring for their children: Impacts of COVID-19 on parents.” STATCAN COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 45280001. Statistics Canada.

HOULE, Patricia, Martin TURCOTTE and Mike WENDT. 2017. “Changes in parents’ participation in domestic tasks and care for children from 1986 to 2015.” Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 89-652-X2017001. Statistics Canada

STATISTICS CANADA. 2020a “Family Matters: Sharing housework among couples in Canada: Who does what?” The Daily, February 19.

STATISTICS CANADA. 2020b “Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1: COVID-19 and working from home”, The Daily, April 17.

Report a problem on this page

Is something not working? Is there information outdated? Can't find what you're looking for?

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Privacy notice

Date modified: