New Man fails to make it into the Nineties; Social Trends: Women still do most housework

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The Independent Online
NICHOLAS TIMMINS

Public Policy Editor

The New Man of the 1980s has failed to make it into the 1990s. Among couples, eight out of ten women still always or usually do the washing or ironing. Only 35 per cent of men share the job of deciding what to have for dinner and while men and women share shopping more equally, it is still men who are overwhelmingly likely to do the repairs around the home.

More people are taking two holidays a year and more are going abroad. They are spending longer on education, becoming better qualified, retiring or having to give up work earlier. Spending on food and tobacco as a proportion of household expenditure is falling, but housing and transport are taking a larger slice of household budgets, the Social Trends analysis of lifestyle and expenditure reveals.

Women spend eight hours more per week on housework, cooking and shopping even when they are working full-time - and as a result men in full-time work tend to have two hours' more free time at weekends than their working partners. But some things change: the proportion of women doing home improvements in their free time rose to 30 per cent.

And while men remain more likely than women to take part in sport or other physical activity, the gap between the genders has narrowed. In 1993-94, 57 per cent of women took part in at least one activity in the four weeks preceding a survey, against 72 per cent of men.

Walking is the most popular activity for both sexes, but men were four times more likely to play golf, snooker, pool or billiards than women, while higher proportions of women than men went swimming or attended keep- fit classes.

At home, watching television remains overwhelmingly the favourite leisure time activity, with people spending an average 19 hours a week in front of the television or listening to the radio, compared with five hours visiting friends, three reading, and two playing games or hobbies or computing.

On average, three hours a week are spent eating or drinking out, two hours on walks or other recreation and just one on sport. Cycling, despite greater interest in bicycle lanes, has continued to decline, at least on public roads. In 1951, this activity accounted for a quarter of all road traffic, with 21 billion kilometres covered. By 1994, kilometres covered had fallen by one-fifth and cyclists made up just 1 per cent of traffic.

Arts activities are increasing. Cinema attendances were up 10 per cent to 124 million admissions in 1994 and theatre attendances and art gallery visits all rose over the past decade.

Rising wealth - household spending has risen by three-quarters since 1971 - has seen changing expenditure patterns. The proportion spent on food has nearly halved to 11 per cent since 1971, and the proportion spent on other essentials such as fuel, power, clothing and footwear also fell. Housing, however, accounts for a higher proportion - the result both of rising owner-occupation and higher rents. Expenditure on holidays abroad nearly quadrupled over the same period.

The proportion of adults taking one holiday a year has remained fairly constant at about 60 per cent, but the proportion taking two or more has risen fourfold to 26 per cent over the past 30 years. Changed expenditure on food has not prevented a healthier diet - though not among the young. The 16- to 24-year-olds were the least likely to eat vegetables, salad, fruit and high-fibre cereal regularly.

Education is starting earlier, with more than half of three- and four- year-olds now attending school full- or part-time. The proportion staying on at school past 16 has almost doubled since 1980. There has been a "spectacular" growth in the number of 18-year-olds entering further education. But at the other end of working life, only 51 per cent of men aged 60 to 64 now work, against four out of five in 1971.

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