Partners' relative earnings and the domestic division of labour

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					Partners‟ relative earnings and
the domestic division of labour
       Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette
    Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century
      26-27 March 2009 Queen‟s College
           University of Cambridge
   Positive and negative aspects of
         the division of labour
• The division of labour contributes to greater productivity (Smith), and
  can also be a source of social solidarity (Durkheim).
• However, the detailed division of labour can contribute to rising
  exploitation („deskilling‟, Braverman).
• When the division of labour is „feudal‟ – ie allocated by tradition to a
  particular group (caste system, gender) it is associated with
  enduring inequality.
• „Traditional‟ allocation of domestic and caring work to women is one
  of the reasons why women are at a disadvantage in the labour
  market – despite equality legislation etc.
• Make a general point:
• Change in gender relations will involve institutional (eg increase in
  women‟s employment, legislation, gender role attitudes etc) as well
  as interactional (ie personal relations between men and women)
  change.
Three approaches that explain the domestic
            division of labour
• Exchange (relative resource) bargaining models: the
  partner who brings more resources to the partnership will
  have the power to get the other partner to do more
  housework (the more a woman earns relative to her
  partner, the less housework she does and the more he
  does).
• Time availability models: housework is carried out by
  the partner with the most time available.
• Interactionist „doing gender‟ gender Display models:
  „gender‟ is produced in everyday activities, and
  household members „do‟ gender as they carry out
  housework and childcare (housework etc. is „gendered‟
  feminine, West and Zimmerman).
Recent quantitative research testing relative
    explanatory significance of resource
 bargaining and „doing gender‟ approaches
• Exchange model works up to a certain point (ie as women earn
  more men do more housework), but when men become more
  economically dependent, women do relatively more housework in
  order to neutralise gender „deviance‟. (Brines, Bittman et al.,
  Greenstein).
• „Exchange‟ and „display‟ models different applicability in different
  countries: US display, Sweden exchange (Evertsson and Nermo). In
  fact, the domestic division of labour (DDL) demonstrates
  considerable cross-national variation. However, theories developed
  to explain gender „imbalance‟ are universal rather than particular.
• No support for „gender deviance neutralisation‟ (display) model.
  (Kan, Crompton and Lyonette, Gupta and Ash).
• Debate not resolved – but we should remember that women still
  take on majority of the housework, even when working full-time.
• We will explore this topic using qualitative research evidence.
         Background and methods

• BSA (British Social Attitudes) survey 2006: of those in
  paid work or „looking after the home‟, 12% reported that
  the woman earned „more or much more‟ than the man.
• BHPS: proportion of women earning £10k+ than partners
  increased 3.39% to 8.79% 1996-2006; women earning
  £5k+ 8.5% to 15.37%.
• Our data draws on 85 interviews with men and women
  carried out as part of a GeNet (www.genet.ac.uk)
  project. Interviewees were qualified doctors,
  accountants, also employees in finance and retail, all
  interviewees had at least one child under the age of 14.
 Classification of partners‟ relative earnings

• Woman Earns More (WEMs): woman earns £10,000 or
  more than her partner (including man not working).
• Same Income Couples (SINCs): earning between £9.999
  less and £9,999 more than partners.
• Man Earns More (MEMs): man earns £10,000 or more
  than his partner (including woman not working).
• Used flexibility in this classification given the income
  range amongst our interviewees – eg woman £17,000,
  man £10,000 classified as WEM.
• 23 WEMs, 12 SINCs, 50 MEMs.
   Asking questions about housework and
                 childcare
• Interviews semi-structured.
• First: „Who would you say has the major
  responsibility for childcare/housework, yourself
  or your partner?‟
• Second: probes getting details of management
  of childcare and domestic work.
• Third: „In your view, who should have the major
  responsibility for childcare/housework, the man
  or the woman?‟
 Who should have primary responsibility for
      housework and other domestic
  responsibilities, the man or the woman?
• 69 interviewees (men and women) said
  domestic chores should be shared, only 2 men
  said they were the woman‟s responsibility.
• Answers often qualified with both „time
  availability‟ and „exchange‟ justifications:
• „I think best shared, but it depends on available
  time‟ (F7 male MEM)
• „If you‟re both working, contributing
  (money)…then you both need to contribute to
  the …running of your home‟ (M10 male MEM)
       The „myth of male incompetence‟
•   Naturalistic assumption that men are „not very good at‟ domestic work.
•   It (doing housework) should be both equally (laughs). It‟s just that it‟s an individual
    thing, a man, he might be not as, not house-proud but things might not be, matter to
    him as much. I know ….I‟m a bit of a perfectionist so I know I want things a certain
    way at home. So I know that, you know, he can have his meal and say oh well the
    dishes can be put in the dishwasher later or tomorrow. Whereas I‟m like no, get them
    out of the way now, so it‟s that sort of detail where, because I‟m pedantic and just
    follow it through and I think it sometimes comes to a head and you sort of think well,
    no this is not fair, but then it‟s me wanting it to be that way, so if that‟s the case, I
    choose to do it that way. But then, I think men are quite different because they
    almost follow instructions, so if I say could you do xyz he will do it, at his own pace,
    but he will do it. But it doesn‟t necessarily naturally just come to them, so that‟s how I
    look at it. (R12 female MEM)
•   „It (housework) should be shared. Again we, it depends who‟s busy…but anyway
    (wife) does it most of the time…but occasionally she, she blows off and I will do
    things…She wants things cleaner than I do (M17 male MEM).
        Extent of men‟s and women‟s input in childcare and
        housework, according to partners‟ relative earnings
Who is mainly            WEM        SINC        MEM        Total
responsible for
childcare?



                         M     F    M      F    M     F
mostly male              0     5    0      2    0     0    7

Shared                   2     6    0      2    3     3    16

Mostly female            1     7    1      7    30    14   60

Total                    3     18   1      11   33    17   83

Who is mainly resp-
onsible for housework?

Mostly male              0     1    0      0    0     0    1

Shared                   2     5    0      5    19    3    34

Mostly female            1     14   1      6    13    14   49

Total                    3     20   1      11   32    17   84
     Who actually does the childcare and
          housework: discussion
• 69 said that housework should be shared, only 34
  reported that it was shared.
• Male MEM much more likely to report sharing (19/32)
  than female MEM (3/17). Men „over-report‟ household
  input.
• Female WEM and SINC much more likely to report
  sharing of housework – support for „exchange‟
  hypothesis (although women still do more).
• Much higher level of shared/male responsibility for
  childcare amongst WEMs and SINCs
    Women who earn more than men
• All SINCs high-earning households (lowest £71,000).
• WEMs: 2 class-based groups (1) 14 in which the woman
  was a high earning managerial/professional (£50,000-
  £100,000+ (2) 9 in which the woman earned decent
  wage (under £20,000 - £40,000) and the male partner
  had low (under £15,000)or no earnings.
• Both categories were similar in that husbands/partners
  gave extensive childcare support. Many men had
  changed jobs (even given up employment) so their wives
  could continue in employment.
• But most women still took major responsibility for
  housework
         Is gender deviance neutralised by
                    housework?
• No. Except for one man, who had given up work to care for his
  children and refused to do housework.
• „…he‟s very, very outgoing, so he has a great time not working, he
  plays golf three days a week …he has always been there for the
  children, and he does all the running round with them, so I have
  complete peace of mind, … one thing I‟m really, really grateful for is
  I have never had to dress my kids, take them out in the rain, and
  take them to a child minder… Basically in theory he does (the
  housework), but in practice I do… our views of housework are totally
  different. So I tend to spend Saturday morning whizzing round and
  doing all the cleaning and everything, I mean I have periodically
  suggested that we get a cleaner, and he refuses. He sort of says,
  no, you know, I don‟t think we should … you know, most of the time
  it really isn‟t an issue… every now and again I‟ll flip and say, well I‟m
  not working all week and coming home and doing this…. He‟s very
  good, he still cooks even at the weekends‟ (F3 female WEM).
      Rather, ‘Gender consciousness’
                heightened
• WEMs and SINCs had a heightened „gender
  consciousness‟ and had actively negotiated
  domestic sharing, or tried to ensure that „their‟
  men contributed.
• „I think its just inbred…I watched my mum…she
  did all the housework, I was brought up little girls
  run around with feather dusters don‟t they?...if I
  had a husband who refused to do
  housework…or had an attitude problem because
  I was earning too much money, I wouldn‟t be
  married to him anymore‟ (F22 female WEM)
But the „myth of male incompetence‟ can get
   in the way of gender conscious efforts
• … (housework) should definitely be shared. I‟m a definite advocate
  of it not being a woman‟s job. My husband might be bad at it but I
  make him do it. I don‟t have time to do everything. He‟ll do the
  washing; he‟s very good at getting the washing in the machine,
  getting it out, dry. I‟ll do the dusting, the cleaning and the hoovering,
  because he‟s awful at doing that. So, you know, we kind of split it. I
  don‟t let him get away with it (F20 female SINC)
• (Interviewer: Who is mainly responsible for the housework?) Me,
  unfortunately, I tried to level it out but it didn‟t work. He didn‟t do it to
  the right standard. I think they do it on purpose men don‟t
  they?...Using the cleaner, he‟ll just clean round things, then all of a
  sudden you‟ll move the sofa and you‟re like, “What is that under
  there?” …. or he says, “Don‟t clean upstairs now because no one
  goes up there bar us, you don‟t need to hoover” is his argument. (F
  30 female WEM).
          Discussion and conclusions
• Change in gender relations will require both institutional change (eg
  in employment, gender role attitudes) as well as change in daily
  interactions („undoing‟ or challenging as well as „doing‟ gender)
• For those interested in gender equality, „who does the housework?‟
  remains an important topic as domestic responsibilities make it
  difficult for women to compete on an equal basis with men.
• Our analysis of daily interactions in couples where women earned
  as much as or more than men suggests that men are willing to take
  on childcare responsibilities, but less willing to take on housework.
  However, women‟s continuing responsibility for housework is not
  explained by „gender deviance neutralisation‟, as some quantitative
  research has suggested. Rather, women were gender conscious
  and made considerable efforts to get their partners to do more
  domestic work.
         Discussion and conclusions
• But: some men draw on a modified version of gender
  stereotyping (the „myth of male incompetence‟) to avoid
  housework, and many women fall back on similar
  arguments to justify persisting housework inequalities.
• „It's me, I'm the neat freak. My husband's a slob. So I
  get home, pick everything up, put everything away, take
  my coat off, well sometimes take my coat off first, it
  depends. …. We don't have a cleaner. I've asked
  several times, but unless I'm willing to pay for it myself,
  then it's not going to happen, so no. …My husband does
  most of the washing …. so he'll sort the washing out, but
  everything else is down to me, so I tend to put it in when
  I get home, do a bit of this, bit of that, clean the
  bathroom weekends, you know‟ (F20, female SINC).
                       Finally…
• Five of the WEM couples in the professional and
  managerial category paid for housework to be done by
  someone else. This did not always remove tensions:
  „(husband) always thinks we can pay the way out of it by
  getting someone else to do it and the idea you can‟t sort
  of get someone else to interview your au pair and
  interview your nannies for you and that kind of thing.‟ (A3
  female SINC).
• In any case, paying for somebody else (usually another
  woman) to do domestic work removes pressure for
  change in gender relations and can perpetuate gender
  traditionalism.

				
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