Are women spending more time on unpaid domestic work than men in Canada?
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By Colin Lindsay
Data from the General Social Survey1 confirm what most working age Canadians probably already know; that is, they are working longer hours either on the job or at home on unpaid domestic chores. In 2005, for example, people between the ages of 25 and 54, the years when women and men are both most likely to be part of the paid work force and raising families, spent about 9 hours per day on all work activities, including paid and unpaid work. This compared with slightly over 8 hours per day nearly 20 years ago in 19862.
Similar trends are seen for both men and women. Indeed, men and women in Canada currently spend about the same amount of time per day on total paid and unpaid work activities. In 2005, for example, women aged 25 to 54 spent 8.7 hours per day on all work activities, while the figure was 8.8 hours per day for their male counterparts.
Average time per day spent on paid and unpaid work activities, men, women and total, 1986 and 2005
There are substantial differences, though, in the time women and men devote to paid versus unpaid work. In 2005, women aged 25 to 54 averaged almost two hours more per day on unpaid work activities, than their male counterparts. In contrast, men in this age range spent almost two hours more per day than women on paid work activities.
However, while women are still largely responsible for looking after their homes and families, data from the General Social Survey indicate that the household work gender gap is closing. In 2005, men aged 25 to 54 averaged 2.5 hours per day doing unpaid household work, including primary child care and shopping, up from 2.1 hours per day in 1986. In contrast, the average time women spent on these activities declined from 4.8 hours per day in 1986 to 4.3 hours per day in 2005. As a result, while women still devote more time per day to unpaid household work than their male counterparts, the gap is down from close to three hours per day in the mid-1980s to less than two hours per day twenty years later in the mid-2000s.
Almost all of the change in the distribution of unpaid household work between men and women in Canada in the past two decades involved changes in time allocated to basic household chores, including cooking, washing up and housekeeping. The average time men aged 25 to 54 devoted to these types of activities rose by almost half an hour per day between 1986 and 2005, while for women in this age range, the figure fell by around a half an hour per day.
Women spend about an hour a day more on basic housework chores than their male counterparts. In 2005, women aged 25 to 54 averaged 2.4 hours daily cooking, cleaning and doing other basic unpaid household chores, compared with 1.4 hours per day for men in this age range.
Women also continue to devote an average of almost an hour more per day than men on other unpaid household chores including primary child care and shopping. The time devoted to these tasks by both women and men has not changed significantly in the past twenty years.
The overall time women are spending on unpaid housework activities has declined, at least in part, because of the fact that a growing share of women are part of the paid work force. The flow of women, especially those with young children, into the work force has been one of the most profound social changes in Canada in the past quarter century3. As a result, women aged 25 to 54 were averaging 4.4 hours per day on paid work activities in 2005, up from 3.3 hours per day in 1986. In contrast, there was only a marginal change in the average hours men in this range age were spending on the job in the past twenty years.
So, while women are still spending more time than men on domestic work, men are doing more of this work in 2005 than 1986. In particular, men are contributing by spending more time on basic household chores than in the past. The impact of women moving in large numbers into the workforce on the distribution of unpaid work among dual-earner families has been explored in more detail in another study4, but what is clear is that families are adapting to the time demands of paid work.
- Data in this report has been adapted from: Marshall, Katherine, "Converging gender roles" Perspectives July 2006. Catalogue no. 75-001-XIE, vol. 7 no 7. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.
- Average hours are for all Canadians in this age range averaged over a seven-day week. Work-related activities include actual time spent on the job as well as commuting times. Unpaid domestic work activities include basic household work chores such as cooking and cleaning, child care activities, shopping and home maintenance.
- Women in Canada: A gender-based statistical report. Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 89-503-X.
- Marshall, K. (2006) Converging gender roles. Perspectives on Labour and Income Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 75-001-X.
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