New man debunked by women's dual burden

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The Independent Online
Despite protests to the contrary it appears new man is a myth. A survey of 10,000 adults found that working women carry a "dual burden" - doing on average nine hours more housework a week than their husbands.

The British Household Panel Survey also shows that not only sex differences but class differences in the conditions of work are alive and well.

The 1990s has seen little change in how husbands and wives divide up their jobs. The data released at the beginning of the British Association of Science Week found that around 28 per cent of couples have two full- time jobs with the old standard breadwinner/housewife pattern where a husband works full time and the wife part time has fallen from 18 per cent to 15 per cent.

However, even these households were where both spouses have full time work have rather less gender equality than might be expected, with researchers describing any resemblance between husbands' and wives' work lives as "only superficial".

"Full time employed women continue to carry a `dual burden': the husbands have in effect one job where they have two," said Jonathan Gershuny of the Economic and Social Research Council. When both men and women are employed full time women do on average nine hours more work.

When women have longer working hours than men they still do at least six more hours of housework a week. And when both are unemployed the wife will do as many as 14 hours more housework per week.

"The role that most women play as mother/housekeeper still significantly affects their career opportunities," said Professor Gershuny. "Although the absolute number of women in the work force has increased in recent years they still bear the greatest burden for family care so their promotion prospects, job security and earnings potential are still much more restricted than are men."

The survey, which has interviewed 5,000 households (10,000 adults) annually since 1991 also suggests that in any one full year 73 per cent of men and 63 per cent of women are in stable employment or are self employed, 12 per cent of men and a quarter of women are out of the work force and 15 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women experience short-term movements in and out of work.

But when considering the differences between the burdens of husbands and wives, it also notes that despite the number of wives in full time work, in fact fewer than one quarter of all wives spend as much time in paid work as their husbands do, while around one half of all husbands spend "substantially longer" working for money than their wives do.

If gender differences are still alive in the late 20th century, then the class divide also still exists. The research shows that half of all male technical and clerical workers will experience some time out of work over a four-year period, whereas less than a third of professional and managerial workers will have the same experience during the same period.

Only 23 per cent of professional and managerial men will have some time out of the labour force during the four-year period, compared with 53 per cent of male technicians and clerical workers.

There is an apparent overall stability in the level of secure employment (around 78 per cent) in any one year. But the study noted an apparent trend, through the 1990s, of a substantial rise in annual job insecurity of male manual workers.

Leading article, page 14