More Australian women go for jobs, but household drudgery continues, reveals a new report brought out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Women spent around the same amount of time on household work (which includes caring for children as well as domestic activities and shopping) in 2006 (an average of 33 hours and 45 minutes a week) as they had in 1992.
But men did take on more household work. Between 1992 and 2006, the average time men spent on household work rose by an hour and 25 minutes to 18 hours and 20 minutes a week.
The different gender roles were also apparent in the division of household work (with women doing most of the indoor tasks and men dominating the outdoor activities), but there is evidence that these roles have become less rigid in recent years. In 2006 men were spending more time on traditionally 'female' domestic activities such as cooking and laundry than in 1992, and less time on outdoor activities such as lawn mowing, and home maintenance.
While men are doing slightly more household work than in the past, in 2006 women still did around 1.8 times as much as men (compared with twice as much in 1992). Although women are spending less time cleaning and doing laundry, they still spent almost six times as long on laundry as men in 2006, and more than three times as long on other housework such as cleaning. Women also spent almost two and a half times as long on food preparation and clean up, despite men doing more of the cooking than in the past, the Bureau said in its Australian Social Trends for 2009.
While men are taking on a greater role with respect to child care than in the past, women on average spent more than two and a half times as long caring for children as men did in 2006. There were also differences in the type of child care activities parents did, with fathers spending a greater proportion of their child care time on play activities (41% compared with 25% for mothers), and mothers spending more of their time on physical and emotional care activities (43%, compared with 27% for fathers).
In 2006, home maintenance was the only area of household work on which men spent considerably more time than women, despite men having cut back in this area since 1992.
However, overall, people are spending less time cleaning or maintaining their homes, and less time looking after their gardens than in the past. While this may imply that people are giving lower priority to housework and maintenance, it's likely that people are also finding more time-efficient ways to do the domestic duties, including the increasing use of labour saving devices such as dishwashers and dryers.
Ten per cent of households paid for dry cleaning, ironing or laundry services, 9% paid for domestic cleaning services, and more than a quarter of households either paid for lawn or gardening services (13%) or had grounds maintained by a body corporate (13%).
As women, on average, increased the time spent in paid work between 1992 and 2006, the average time spent on domestic activities by women declined, particularly laundry and ironing, and other housework such as cleaning. However, this was partly offset by an increase in time spent on household management activities such as paying bills. Women also spent more time on other household work such as child care, so that the time spent on household work overall did not change significantly.
Also youngsters, in the 15-24 age group, were less likely to engage in domestic activities in 2006 than in 1992, the report found.
Hearteningly, there was an increase in the amount of time mothers and fathers spent minding children and travel time associated with caring for children.
In contrast to child care activities, both participation in and time spent on domestic activities tends to increase with age for men and women. Older men and women, for example, spend much more time cooking and gardening in their retirement years. Men also spend more time shopping as they get older. This may reflect changes in time use as a result of being widowed, or caring for a partner in older age. In other cases, people may see gardening or preparing meals as an enjoyable way to spend the additional time available in retirement.