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Family Matters No. 47 - June 1997

Women's satisfaction with the domestic division of labour

Janeen Baxter and Mark Western

Abstract

This paper examines men's and women's levels of satisfaction with the domestic division of labour. In most households, women continue to undertake the bulk of child care and housework responsibilities, and spend significantly greater amounts of time on domestic labour than men. Men report high levels of satisfaction with these arrangements, but surprisingly, approximately 40 per cent of women also report a high level of satisfaction with these arrangements. This paper attempts to explain this apparent paradox. The authors explore the way in which levels of satisfaction vary in relation to a number of factors such as labour force attachment of husbands and wives, life cycle stage, and attitudes to gender roles and social class. Their findings raise implications for the meaning of equity and fairness within the household. The main goal for women may not be an equal division of household tasks, but rather a contribution to housework, because the perceived alternative is not an equal division of labour but a situation in which men do even less.

This paper examines men's and women's levels of satisfaction with the domestic division of labour. In most households, women continue to undertake the bulk of child care and housework responsibilities, and spend significantly greater amounts of time on domestic labour than men. Men report high levels of satisfaction with these arrangements, but surprisingly, approximately 40 per cent of women also report a high level of satisfaction with these arrangements. This paper attempts to explain this apparent paradox. The authors explore the way in which levels of satisfaction vary in relation to a number of factors such as labour force attachment of husbands and wives, life cycle stage, and attitudes to gender roles and social class. Their findings raise implications for the meaning of equity and fairness within the household. The main goal for women may not be an equal division of household tasks, but rather a contribution to housework, because the perceived alternative is not an equal division of labour but a situation in which men do even less.

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