She works hard at the office all day. So does he. But guess who does all the work once they get home?

Gender inequality Women with jobs still do all the household chores. But, worse, most of us think that's the way it should be
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It is a scene that is played out daily in homes across the country: a stressed mother returns from work via the childminder's only to be confronted by a mound of ironing and an indifferent husband.

A new study published today by New Labour think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) reveals that 21st-century women are still expected to take on the majority of household duties, including childcare, while holding down demanding jobs.

Despite the invention of househusbands and the rise of the so-called new man, gender inequality is rife among couples, with many people still believing that a woman's primary role is to stay at home.

The IPPR findings are based on an analysis of data from the National Centre for Social Research as well as research from Mori. The think-tank commissioned the study, Attitudes to Social Justice, to gauge public attitudes towards taxation and identify who people think are deserving of state benefits.

A separate study which will be published later this month will also reveal that there is still a widely held public belief that gender equality does not apply to women's private lives.

Researchers at the University of Bristol have found that nearly two- thirds of women who earn the same or more than their partners are primary childcarer.

In a study backed by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), researchers looked at changes in female employment patterns since the 1970s and found that responsibility for most of the housework and the burden of looking after sick children still falls to mothers, even though three-quarters of all households now have dual incomes.

Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby, who carried out the research for the IPPR, says men must be urged to take an equal share in domestic responsibility, for example through the introduction of compulsory parental leave.

"It's still the situation that women are facing the double burden of combining work with domestic duties as much as they were 20 years ago," said Mr Taylor-Gooby, professor of social policy at the University of Kent.

Despite outdated and sexist attitudes towards women in the home, the majority of people think that women and children should be first in line for government subsidies for childcare and wages.

The IPPR found that 68 per cent of people think ministers should help meet childcare costs and three-quarters think the state should help with the childcare of single mothers with pre-school children.

However, this view does not extend to married mothers who have pre-school age children. Only half of people believe that they deserve the same benefits. This support for a "something for something" principle, where spending on people who contribute to society is favoured over those who just accept handouts, also applies to single mothers whose children are at school.

The public thinks that these women should be encouraged to work through punitive measures such as placing conditions on their benefits.

The IPPR is warning the Government that it must make benefits for mothers and children a top priority and make rewards for paid work and promotions fair. However, the think-tanks say that higher taxes cannot be justified through traditional socialist appeals to social justice.

Nick Pearce, the director of the IPPR and a former government adviser, said: "The research results illustrate why issues that are high on women's agendas ... will be at the centre of the political battleground this year."

The Government is already trying to tackle the fact that many women take on part-time work in a bid to manage their dual roles of mother and career woman but this work is often poorly paid.

Juggling duties when parents go out to earn

Company director Helen Toney, 40, and husband Dave, 44, both have demanding jobs. Helen runs a web company and Dave works as an IT manager. They share most of the work, but Helen - who works from home - does more of the juggling. They live in Staffordshire with their children Daniel, eight, and Charlotte, five.

Helen's diary for Friday

6.15am Prepare children's breakfast

6.45am Shower and dress

7am Give children breakfast, load dishwasher, load washing machine, tidy up before cleaner arrives, get children ready for school

8am School run

9am Work in home office

3.30pm School run

4.30-5.30pm Take children to after-school clubs, eg gymnastics, cubs

5.30-6.30pm Help children with homework, prepare children's dinner

7pm Bathe children

7.30pm Put children to bed, make dinner

8.30pm Back in the office

Midnight Bed

Dave's diary for Friday

6.15am Shower and dress

6.45am Help children to wash and get dressed

7am Breakfast

7.30am Set off for work

8.30am-6.30pm Work at the office

7.30pm Return home, read stories to the children

8.30pm Load dishwasher, help Helen in the office

Midnight Bed

Janet Murray

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