In October 2020, WorkLife featured research from Baowen Xue and Anne McMunn showing how seriously the pandemic is affecting the mental health of working parents, especially single mothers. The researchers expressed concerns about reversing pre-pandemic trends towards a more gender equal society and supported calls from the care-led recovery women’s budget group. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Bristol-led Equal Lives Project has continued to look at the way household work was shared during and after lockdown in 2020. Susan Harkness from the University of Bristol and Alija Rodriguez-Sanchez from Humboldt-University of Berlin explain what they found and the implications of this. the most affected group.
Covid-19 has confined entire families to their homes and changed the way household work is shared, but those with young children have seen a faster return to the way things were before lockdown, which points to a ‘re-tradition’ of roles for this special group of affected women. severely.
The first Covid-19 lockdowns in spring 2020 thrust parents and children into unfamiliar situations, with entire families working or studying from home. So for heterosexual couples, what does this mean for traditional gender divisions of housework? Are the increasing domestic burdens on women changed by the presence of both parents in the home? And what happened when the lockdown began to ease in the summer of 2020?
The Equal Lives team set out to answer these questions using data collected through the Understanding Society COVID-19 Study in April, May, June and September 2020. The Understanding Society is the largest long-running household-level study of its kind, following a sample of UK households: as of From April 2020, participants were asked to complete monthly web surveys about the impact of the pandemic on their lives.
Responses from people of working age who were in heterosexual relationships that continued throughout the study period provided a final sample size of just over 2,000 pairs.
These couples were asked about the gender division of household chores during the first lockdown, during April 2020. This was compared with information collected from pre-lockdown surveys, conducted during 2019. They were also asked if these changes persisted at the first lockdown. tempered. We compared those without children at home to those with children of different ages.
What we saw was that, as with other types of trauma affecting the division of labor, couples tended to adapt. Initially, there was a moderate amount of gender rebalancing in the sharing of domestic work, but this depended on the number and age of the couple’s children. However, by September 2020, the old gender divisions had been largely re-established.
Overall, the results showed that paid work hours for both men and women decreased significantly in the spring of 2020 but recovered by September. During the spring lockdown, about a third of the male and female participants were working but working from home. a figure that fell to just under a quarter by September. One in five women and one in seven men took leave in the spring, but this dropped to less than one in 20 by September.
Overall, women’s share of housework fell from 65 percent before Covid to 60 percent during the first lockdown. By September, that percentage had returned to 62 percent. Both men and women increased their hours of domestic work during the lockdown – from 13 to just under 15 for women, and from six and a half to nine and a half for men.
When the respondents were divided into three groups – those without children living at home, those with children under the age of five and those with older children – marked differences emerged.
For couples without children at home, women’s share of domestic labor decreased during the spring and continued to decline after the summer. Although these women still do more housework than their partners, their inputs have not returned to pre-Covid levels.
For those with children ages 6 to 15, the decline in women’s share of housework partially reversed by September, but the recovery was less pronounced and they performed less than before the pandemic.
But for those with children under the age of five, the decline in women’s share of housework reversed completely by September despite being more pronounced than for other groups in the spring.
So what do we make of this? In terms of family dynamics, the ban may have more lasting effects on some families than others. Concerns that progress in gender equality could be reversed during the pandemic were most real for those with very young children, who were far less able to keep themselves occupied and whose education was not provided online.
An important reason for the division of labor during the lockdown was the working hours of men and women – women with young children tended to reduce their paid hours more in order to cope with the increased burden of care.
Our study highlights the need for a nuanced perspective on changes to family life during the pandemic, and more research is needed to look at whether extended family networks can mitigate the increased burden of care for some families, and how the pandemic has affected the mental health of women. Those with and without children. Additionally, it would be helpful to look at how lockdowns in different countries affect families differently.
The gender division of household chores during the COVID-19 pandemic: temporary shocks or rapid change? is search by It is published by Demographic Research, Susan E. Harkness, and Susan E. Harkness