New woman still tied to kitchen sink

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The Independent Online
MODERN WOMAN may be better educated, have a better job and earn more money than her grandmother ever dreamt of, but in one way her life remains the same - eight out of ten women still do the household chores.

Only 1 per cent of men say they do the washing and ironing or decide what to have for dinner. The only area where average man is more likely to help out is with small repairs around the house.

The report Social Focus on Women and Men, by the Office for National Statistics, found that attitudes to women working have changed drastically over the past decade. Whereas in 1987 more than half of men and 40 per cent of women agreed with the statement, "A husband's job is to earn the money; a wife's job is to look after the home and family", that view had halved among both sexes by 1994.

The numbers agreeing strongly with the statement, "A job is all right but what most women really want is a home and children", had also halved from 15 per cent to 7 per cent of men feeling that way and 12 per cent to 5 per cent of women.

Women's increased participation in the world of work has been one of the most striking features of recent decades. Nearly half of all women aged 55 to 59 have no qualifications. But their granddaughters are outperforming their male peers across the board, and from 1989 overtook boys at A-levels.

Gender stereotypes persist at this level of education, however, with more than three- fifths of English entrants being female, while a similar proportion of maths entrants are male. A greater number of boys take physics and chemistry whereas girls predominate in social sciences and history.

The explosion in higher education means there was a 66 per cent increase in the number of female undergraduates and a 50 per cent increase in the number of male undergraduates between 1990-91 and 1995-96.

Women are also making breakthroughs in specific areas of employment. Women now form a slight majority among new solicitors although they make up only one-third of all solicitors. Since 1984 the number of women in work has risen by 20 per cent to 10.5 million.

But when it comes to pay, they still lag behind their male peers. Women earn on average 80 per cent of what men do per hour. They are also far more likely to work part-time or with temporary contracts.

Part of the reason for this is because women still take the main role in childcare, although they are more likely to work than in the past. The number of mothers with children under five doubled between 1973 and 1996. And the number of women who return to work within nine to eleven months of the birth increased dramatically. In 1974, only 24 per cent of women returned in this period compared with 67 per cent in 1996.

The relationship between the sexes has also seen changes. Seven in ten first marriages are now preceded by cohabitation compared with only one in twenty first marriages in the mid-1960s. Since 1992 women in their early thirties have been more likely to give birth than those in their early twenties, although the fertility rate is still highest among those aged 25 to 29.

Social Focus on Women and Men is published by the Stationery Office; pounds 30.

Women's hourly earnings are only 80 per cent of men's. On average, full time female workers earned pounds 7.88 per hour. Having children is bad for your wealth - a childless woman earns on average pounds 310 a week, compared with pounds 194 for mothers.

THE GENDER BATTLEGROUND OF THE LATE NINETIES

SECTOR

AT

WORK

EARNING

MONEY

SPENDING

MONEY

FAMILY

EDUCATION

HEALTH

AT

HOME

MEN

Men outnumber women in permanent employment but are more likely to work very long hours with one in five working more than 50 hours a week.

Full time male workers earned on average pounds 9.82 per hour. Nearly a third see their income fall when they set up with a partner - although splitting up can see their income rise.

Men more likely to carry debit and credit cards. They like spending their money on motoring and fares. They also spend a higher proportion of their money on leisure and twice what women spend on alcohol.

Just under half of fathers worked for an employer offering paid paternity leave iand most of those entitled made use of it. And what Bridget Jones was right - the proportion of men who are married is higher than women.

Over three fifths of maths A Level students are men, despite equal numbers taking the subject at GCSE. Male undergraduates increased by 50 per cent between 1990/1 - 1995/6. Male postgraduates outnumber female

Men much more likely to take vigorous exercise for at least 20 minutes three times a week. They still have five years' less life expectancy than female peers but report less stress.

Men say they believe household tasks should be shared, but only 1 per cent say they always do the washing and ironing.

WOMEN

Women more likely to work `flexitime', and are less likely to be long term unemployed than men. They still dominate health, education and public administration.

Women more likely to carry store cards and buy shoes and household goods. They spend almost double what men do on clothes, slightly more on housing and an equal amount on food.

More than two thirds of women now return to work within 9-11 months of giving birth - in 1979 only a quarter did so. They still provide the majority of childcare even when they work themselves.

Ten per cent more girls than boys get 5 GCSEs and since 1988/89 women have outperformed men at A-level. There was a 66 per cent increase in the number of female undergraduates between 1990-91 and 1995-96.

Women have healthier diet, more likely to eat fruit and less likely to take sugar in coffee. Also less likely to eat chocolate. They were less likely to be overweight than men but more likely to be obese or underweight.

Perhaps fed up of feckless men, the proportion of new mortgages taken out by a woman solely in her name doubled between 1983 and 1997.

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