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The Woman's Place is Still in the Kitchen -Women perform two thirds of all domestic work in the world

Professor Knud Knudsen at the University of Stavanger, Norway, has studied the work input made by spouses in their homes in relation to national levels of gender equality and economic development. In a comprehensive comparative study women and men's housework has been mapped in 34 countries.

Under the auspices of The International Social Survey Program (ISSP) around 18 000 couples from the age of 25 to 65 answered questions on how much time they spent weekly on cooking, washing, tidying up, shopping and care.

UiS researcher Knud Knudsen and coauthor Kari Wærnes at the University of Bergen found several interesting patterns in and between the different countries.

The input of the partners and the distribution between them are influenced by the position of women in society and the national economic level. Factors on the macro level influence the micro level in the home and in everyday life, Knudsen says.

According to the survey Norwegian women spend 12 weekly hours on housework while Norwegian men spend just over four. Even if Norwegian women do least domestic work in the world, Norwegian men do little housework compared to men in other countries. The women's part of domestic work is proportionately high also in Norway.

Mexican men perform most housework of all men in the world, and consequently more work than Norwegian women.

The women who perform most housework of all come from Chile. They top the statistics with 38 weekly hours. Next come Brazilian women with 33 hours and Irish women with 32.

In spite of the Frenchmen's reputation for being gourmet cooks they spend less time of all on housework. With a total of 16 hours for both spouses, the difference to Chile, where they spend a total 47 hours on housework, is wide indeed.

Norway tops the statistics together with France with least time spent on housework which is well below the average of 29 hours per week.

The greatest difference between men and women is found in Chile where women spend about 28 more hours on housework than men. Least difference is found in Denmark where women only perform six hours more of housework than men.

If we compare gender equality in the Nordic countries to gender equality in other European countries the difference is less than we are likely to believe, says the sociologist.

The most surprising part of the study was what factors influence women and men's work in the home.

We find it sociologically interesting that the national level of gender equality is the most important influence on women's work, while the economic level is the most important influence on men. In other words, women are more sensitive to how far equality has progressed in the country, while men are more sensitive to the dynamism in the economy, Knudsen says.

The number of hours that women spend on housework varies according to national norms of equality. In societies where women exercise much economic and political power there is less difference between men and women in the home. The sharing of domestic work reflects women's position and power in society, he says.

The partners' individual characteristics are also influential. For example, men do less housework the more they earn, while women do less work the more obligations they have outside the home.

Silje Stangeland | alfa
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