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Women are doing more paid work per week since the 1970s – while men are doing less

Men spend five more hours a week on childcare and housework than in the 1970s, a study has found.

A report by the Resolution Foundation found men are picking up more of the chores compared to 40 years ago, and that women are devoting three fewer hours to domestic work.

Despite this, women are still doing 80 per cent more cooking, cleaning and caring than their male counterparts, racking up 29 hours of work.

The study also found men are doing less paid work – down by eight hours to 34 – while women take on more, increasing the number of hours they spend working at paid jobs by nearly five-and-a-half hours a week since the 1970s.  

Men tend to use free time to catch up on sleep and to volunteer, while women socialising less, watching less TV, playing less sport and taking shorter lunch breaks on account of having less time to themselves.

Women have increased their paid working hours to 22 a week, while reducing their unpaid time by two hours and 44 minutes to 29, according to the analysis of records kept by the Office for National Statistics since 1974.  

The findings set out in the think tank report, entitled The Time Of Our Lives, suggest total working hours among men and women are now close to being equal. 

The study says the changes have mainly benefited middle-class and well-paid homes, because the increase in working hours has come chiefly among higher-paid women. 

In contrast, the rise in time spent on chores and childcare, or otherwise not working for pay, has been mainly among lower-earning men.

A higher proportion of industrial jobs in the mid-1970s may have contributed to the change. 

Men in such households work three hours less per day than in the mid-1970s, when there was a higher proportion of industrial jobs. 

George Bangham, economist at the Resolution Foundation, said many households are now rethinking their time use in light of the coronavirus lockdown.

He said: ‘Debates around how people spend their time often focus on a single goal – speeding up the move to a shorter working week to enable more time for socialising, sport and hobbies.

‘But this isn’t how people’s lives have changed over the past four decades, desirable as it may be.

‘Men are doing less paid work, while women are doing more. Both have less time for play with childcare up and leisure time down.

‘Instead, a worrying new ‘working time inequality’ has emerged, with low-income households working far fewer hours per week than high-income ones.

‘As many households rethink their time use in light of the lockdown, it’s important to remember that while some people want to work fewer hours, others want or need to work more. And for many, control of working hours can be as important as the amount they do.’ 

Shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said: ‘This new evidence shows that working time inequality between lower and higher income households was worsening even before the crisis hit.

‘The Government must carry out and publish an equality impact assessment of the financial and social measures it has taken so far to support people through the pandemic.’ 

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