The gender divide between the amount of paid and unpaid work being carried out has decreased since the mid-1970s, according to a thinktank, but it remains significant. The findings set out in the report, entitled The Time Of Our Lives (pdf), suggest total working hours among men and women are now close to being equal.
In a study to examine changes in the last 46 years in how people use their time, the Resolution Foundation said men are now doing less paid work, while women are doing more. It said women have increased their paid working hours by five hours and 18 minutes to 22 hours a week, while reducing their unpaid hours – such as time spent cooking, cleaning and taking care of children – by two hours and 44 minutes to 29 hours a week. Meanwhile, men have reduced their paid hours by eight hours and 10 minutes to 34 hours a week, while increasing their unpaid hours by five hours and 35 minutes to 16 hours a week.
While both groups do 50-51 hours work a week, men on average do about 12 hours more paid work than they did in the mid-1970s, while women now do about 13 hours a week more unpaid work. However, the report also highlights what it described as a “new divide” across household income levels, with women in high-income households having the biggest increase in paid work.
In contrast, the fall in paid work among men has largely been driven by those in low-income households who are working three hours fewer per day than they did in the mid-1970s.
The foundation suggests the result of this is that the gap in total hours of paid work between high and low-income households has grown from 40 minutes per week in 1974 to four hours and 20 mins in 2014-2015.
It also noted one in seven workers in low-income households want an increase in their hours of work, compared to just one in 30 workers in high-income households.
George Bangham, economist at the Resolution Foundation, 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.
He explained, “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.” He added: “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.”