British couples spend fewer than three hours a day on housework, including preparing meals, according to a study published this week. Research based on people in 34 countries shows that the average couple in Britain spend 19 hours a week on household tasks – the fourth-lowest figure. Despite their reputation for gourmet home-cooked food and chic living, the French put in the least time of all – fewer than 16 hours. Chileans are the most house-proud, putting in more than 47 hours a week.
According to the report, women in Britain still do 71 per cent of the housework. Men contribute less than an hour a day, half the time put in by their counterparts in Mexico. The number of hours put in by women varies with national levels of equality, while men's contribution goes down with increasing wealth. Women's hours may also go down when they have obligations outside the home.
"We argue that women's housework efforts might be more sensitive to female empowerment, and men's to the dynamics of economic activities," say the researchers from the University of Stavanger, and the Institute of Sociology, Bergen, Norway, whose study will be reported in the European Sociological Review. The survey, based on questionnaires completed by more than 17,000 people, asked how many hours they and cohabiting partners put in each week, not including time spent on childcare or leisure activities. The overall average was 29 hours a week.
These results come as no surprise, even to Britons celebrated for housework. Anthea Turner, who presents the television programme Perfect Housewife and is married to Grant Bovey, said: "I'm surprised that most men do five hours. Women will always do more than men as, frankly, they are better and more adept at the task of housework and running a home."
Cheryl Cole admits that her England footballer husband Ashley is more handy on the pitch than in the kitchen. "Ashley doesn't do a thing," she said. "Maybe he'll make me the odd cup of tea, but that's it. Luckily my mum lives with us and she'll do lots of stuff."
After France, (15 hours 55 minutes), those spending the least time on housework are in Norway (16 hours), Finland (17 hours 47) and Britain (19 hours 32). Chile topped the league (47 hours 40), followed by Brazil (43 hours 42) and Mexico (43 hours 8). Chilean women also put in the most hours (more than 38) and Norwegians the fewest (11 hours 40). Mexican men put in the most housework hours (13 hours 49) and Japanese males the lowest (two and a half hours). Women there do 91 per cent of the work. "Husbands in Japan do hardly any housework compared with their wives, while men in the Philippines, Russia and Mexico do relatively more," say the researchers.
The most egalitarian countries were Latvia, Poland and the Philippines, where men do nearly 37 per cent of weekly chores, compared to 29 per cent in Britain.
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