Women do 21 hours more unpaid work than men a week, survey finds

·4-min read
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Women are doing 21 hours more unpaid work than men a week. (Getty Images)

We’d all like to think the idea of women doing the majority of the housework is outdated and old-fashioned.

But according to a new report, women are still doing far more unpaid work each week than men – 21 hours a week more, in fact.

The annual survey, compiled by the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Institute, has revealed that women are taking on unequal amounts of household chores and domestic responsibilities which amount to almost an entire day's work more.

The research also revealed that women were experiencing higher levels of psychological distress in the year before the pandemic.

The annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) analysed data from interviews with 17,500 people in 9,500 households and found that in 2019, women were doing a lot more unpaid work than men, with the gap being most pronounced in heterosexual couples with young children.

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Housework was the largest form of unpaid work, followed by caring for children. (Getty Images)

Housework was the largest form of unpaid work, followed by caring for children, with the amount of unpaid work escalating sharply after having a child.

Women were also found to be spending more time-stressed than men, with 38% of women saying they were time-stressed "often" or "almost always", a figure that has been at the same elevated level since 2001.

On a slight upside, over the life of the HILDA survey the unpaid labour gender gap has narrowed slightly, from women doing 28.8 hours a week more unpaid labour than men in 2002 to 20.9 hours in 2019.

Researchers believe that's partly due to men picking up slightly more of the load – they reported 27.8 hours in 2019 up from 24.7 hours in 2002. 

But it is mostly due to women doing slightly less: 48.7 hours in 2019, down from 53.5 hours in 2002.

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The report also looked at mental health and found that the proportion of adults measured by surveys to be a high or very high risk of psychological distress has soared by about 30% between 2007 and 2019, with women more vulnerable.

Concerning figures revealed almost a quarter (23%) of women and almost a fifth (19%) of men reported psychological distress in 2019.

This is around a third higher since 2007, when 18% and 15% of women and men reported experiencing psychological distress.

This something that is impacting more young people than ever before, with 30% of people aged between 15-24 experiencing psychological distress in 2019, compared to 21% in 2007.

Watch: Woman calls out husband over his ‘concerning’ attitude about household chores

Although this is an Australian study, it is likely that the image of unequal domestic and unpaid labour will be similar to that observed in the UK, particularly as recent research revealed women still do the majority of the housework, with 54% insisting they do everything at home.

Nearly one in five men surveyed (17%) admitted that their female partner does the majority of the housework, compared to just 6% of women.

It's hardly surprising, therefore, that almost a quarter (22%) argue with their partners over them failing to pull their weight, making it the most common cause of arguments with loved ones and housemates.

Meanwhile, "standards of cleanliness" are a source of tension for a stressed 15%, whose idea of a deep clean is not 'shove the pizza box in the overflowing bin'.

Another source of tension for 16% was "as soon as things are clean and tidied, family or housemates will then make a mess again".

Read more: Four in ten women are afraid to drive alone at night

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The survey also revealed women are feeling more psychological stress. (Getty Images)

As well as inequality in terms of household chores, it seems women are still experiencing a gap in terms of salaries too. 

New research on gender inequalities has revealed working-age women in the UK earned 40% less on average than their male peers in 2019.

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) Deaton Review of Inequalities, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, among those aged between 20 and 55, who are not in education, long-term sick or retired, women in paid work earn 19% less per hour on average.

Women in the UK earn an average of £13.20 per hour compared to £16.30 for men, which highlights that the gender pay gap is not looking likely to be closed any time soon. 

According to the report the gender pay gap has fallen by "only a tiny amount" since 2005 when it stood at 20.5%, and is down from 24% in 1995 despite the increase in women’s educational attainment over the last quarter of a century.

Watch: Hapless fiancé breaks two bones doing housework

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