Paid and unpaid work in Australian households: towards an understanding of the new gender division of labour

25 Jul 2008

Recent changes in the labour force participation rates of men and women give rise to new questions regarding the division of labour in Australian families. Over the last few decades we have seen a marked increase in the labour force participation rates of women and a decline in the labour force participation rates of men. In the majority of households both partners are now engaged in paid employment. Our research, and that of others, has shown that these changing labour force participation rates have not automatically led to a radical reorganisation of the domestic division of labour, suggesting that women are adding their paid work hours to their unpaid work hours, effectively doing a ‘second shift’. Therefore, it is timely to consider how couples divide total work for the household, that is, the combination of paid and unpaid work. In this study, we use data collected in a 2005 national Australian survey to examine whether women in dual earner families have higher total workloads than men in dual earner families. We find that in “new traditional” households women continue to undertake a larger proportion of unpaid work. In dual full-time earner households, however the gender gap in men’s and women’s total workload is far less evident. We conclude that the second shift is most apparent in “new traditional” households. In dual full-time earner households on the other hand, there is a new gender division of labour that reflects women’s declining involvement in unpaid work and increased involvement in paid work.

From the 10th Australian Institute of Family Studies Conference 2008 - Families Through Life

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