Men think they do more unpaid labour than they actually do

Men think they do more unpaid domestic labour than they actually do

unpaid domestic labour

Australian women continue to take on the lion’s share of unpaid domestic work in Australia, while fathers tend to think they contribute more to domestic tasks than they actually do, new research has found. 

The study from Melbourne Institute and Roy Morgan Research assessed the responses of over 1,000 Australians in March this year, finding that women do an average of 22.3 hours of unpaid domestic work per week compared to men’s 15.3 hours.

Unpaid domestic work included grocery shopping, food preparation, laundry, grounds care and gardening, home and vehicle maintenance, caring for children, caring for an adult, and paying of bills. 

For women who live with children under 18, the average number of hours of unpaid domestic work rose to 30.4 hours per week, while men who live with children average 16.4 hours.

For both men and women, the total number of hours of unpaid domestic work has dropped since March 2023. And although women who worked longer hours in the paid labour market did less unpaid domestic work, women working full-time still did slightly more around the house (15.8 hours per week) than full-time employed men (14.3 hours). Meanwhile, men who are employed part-time contribute the least to unpaid domestic work — just 11 hours on average per week. 

Adding to the distress of these figures is the mismatched perceptions women and men had of their own contribution to unpaid domestic work. Sixty-two percent of women reported their male partners did less hours of unpaid labour than they did, while only 57 percent of men said their partner contributed more. 

When it came to parents or guardians of children, almost 70 per cent of mothers said they did more than the father of their children, while only 56 per cent of fathers said their female partners did more.  

These significant gender gaps in unpaid domestic work has left many women dissatisfied, especially mothers. Evidently — women are more dissatisfied than men with the division of unpaid domestic work between them and their partner — with almost 30 per cent of women reporting to be either very or moderately dissatisfied. 

Who came out as the most satisfied group? Unsurprisingly — it’s the fathers — with over 60 per cent saying they were either moderately or very satisfied with the division of unpaid labour. 

The latest research is dispiriting for women, but sadly not surprising. Countless studies have shown that even in our modern era, women still do the lion’s share of housework and caring. Women are being pushed into gender stereotypical roles within households and bearing the burden of domestic responsibilities. 

And the unequal division poses a real threat to women’s wellbeing — we know that the fallout of the pandemic has been in many cases worse for women than men, with one Australian study from 2022 revealing that women have suffered greater financial and psychological harms than men. Meanwhile, women in paid employment consistently report lower levels of workplace wellbeing than men, as the latest Workforce Trends Report showed. 

The 2024-25 Women’s Budget released last month was labeled as one that “works for women”, identifying societal barriers to fathers’ involvement in their children’s care — yet it was widely considered merely a “moderate” attempt at investing in women’s safety, women’s health and women’s economic security. 

As economist Nicki Hutley said earlier this year, “Men must be an integral part of the solution, especially around sharing the burden of unpaid work.” Hutley was one of the reviewers of this year’s Financy Women’s Index (FWX) which found that the gender gap of unpaid housework between the genders actually got worse between 2022-23. 

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