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Housework 'sloths' rife

MEN appear unprepared for living alone or for being the partner of a breadwinning woman, according to the Mintel study.

The attitude that a woman's place is in the home and a man must be the breadwinner is dying, it says. Only 23 per cent of men surveyed agree with this proposition - ranging from more than half among those aged 65 and over to 4 per cent in the 20-24 age group.

More than four-fifths - 83 per cent - also believe that married women have the right to work 'whatever the family situation' and even more agree that the family can benefit from this.

However, these beliefs are not translated into sharing the housework, according to Mintel. Fifty per cent of married men are 'sloths' when it comes to household chores, leaving them 'wholly or mainly' to someone else.

A survey of 1,576 men and women found only 2 per cent of men who conformed to the New Man image - they did all these tasks or shared them equally with their wives. Mintel then adopted a revised definition of 'Newish Man' - someone wholly or mainly responsible for one of the household tasks. It found that 18 per cent qualified for this title.

The largest proportion of newish men, 28 per cent, are among those not working or retired. The smallest are found among those with children (12 per cent) and those working (13 per cent).

The average man working full-time also spends about 15 hours a week less than his female counterpart on 'essential activities' such as housework, shopping and child care. Even allowing for the fact that his working week tends to be longer, this still leaves him with one and a half hours' more free time each weekday, and three hours more each weekend day.

Angela Hughes, Mintel's consumer research manager, said men seemed more interested in the financial advantage of a working wife than in equality of the sexes. 'While they are reluctant to say the woman's place is in the home it is clear from our research that they still expect her to do the housework.'

Men 2000; Mintel, 18-19 Long Lane, London EC1A 9HE; pounds 795.