Toronto Star

Tuesday, August 10, 1999

Women do less housework: Study

Chores go undone as they work, men slow to pick up slack


CHICAGO -- The dust bunnies are building up under the average couch.

Women are spending half as much time on housework as they did in the 1960s, while men are doing a little more, but not enough to pick up the slack, according to a study released yesterday.

Men now do a third of all the household chores, but mostly the housework just isn't getting done because women have joined the workforce, says the study, released at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

"There probably has been a change in standards," said sociologist Suzanne Bianchi of the University of Maryland, one of the report's authors. "It's not that people are living in squalor, but they have shed those things that are not so essential."

That's especially true if you look at the fact housework should have increased in the past 30 years because homes and yards have become bigger, she said in an interview.

In 1965, women were doing 30 hours of housework a week but now it's down to 171/2, largely because they're in the labour force, getting married later and having fewer children, Bianchi said.

From the mid-'60s to the mid-'80s, men increased the time they spend on chores from five to 10 hours a week. They began doing a little more cooking, cleaning and laundry and upped the time they spend on yard work, repairs and bill-paying by almost two hours a week.

But since then, men's time on household tasks has levelled off while women's has continued to decline, says the study, Is Anyone Doing the Housework?

In the past 30 years, women have cut in half the time they spend cooking, down to 4.6 hours a week. While they used to spend 4 1/2 hours a week cleaning up after meals, that's now down to seven-tenths of an hour.

Laundry used to take women six hours a week but that's now down to two and cleaning the house is down to 6.7 hours a week from 7.2.

And no one seems to be cleaning up after them. Only 6 to 8 per cent of families report they hire a house cleaning service -- up from 3 to 4 per cent 30 years ago -- but not enough to account for the change, Bianchi said.

"People are doing something else," she said. "They're spending a lot more on take-out and restaurant meals and they're just not doing as much laundry. "

Labour-saving kitchen devices aren't the answer either, because studies have shown they really don't save time, she said.

The study was based on time-use diaries kept in each decade from the 1960s by 6,740 men and women across the United States.

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