Home dark side
Housework chores, division and discrimination
Have you ever been in an Italian average family home at 7 am?
Mum is making breakfast, loading the washing machine, desperately trying to wake kids up, having (better gulping) her coffee, getting prepared for work and texting on the phone. And dad? He’s shaving!
Everybody knows housework is annoying, unending and without any gratification and if you are a woman living with a man it is highly likely you end up doing the most of it. In Northern countries such as Norway and Sweden, men and women share their housework more fairly. On the contrary, in Southern Europe, there is a great disparity between men and women chores. In fact, for example, British women work 34 hours a week, while British men spend 16 hours a week doing housekeeping. Moreover, men carry out much fewer domestic chores than women, their commitment being generally limited to take out the dustbin or feed the dog. Conversely women, every single day of their life, help their children with homework, prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner, and answer the phone at the same time, do the ironing, load washing machines and dishwashers, and on and on and on. This situation obviously leads women to be extremely stressed and busy. What is unbelievable is the fact that a lot of men think that home care isn’t a proper and real work and are deeply convinced that women have an enormous amount of free time. The truth clearly stands the other side: the ONS calculated women would earn £259 a week on average if this unpaid work could be remunerated.
Covid-19 changed radically people’s life: many workers have lost their job, or their paid hours have been reduced and the governments requested to stay at home, thus exponentially augmenting the time spent within the houses and together with the families.
Both the second wave and the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic changed the distribution of housework for the worse. In both cases, women were loaded with more and more annoying chores. The first wave, in particular, impacted this division, while the second wave was less restrictive and consequently had less impact. Although being at home, men did not help more, but they spent more time with their children. Since men did not and do not help with the chores, women work full time, both at the office and at home.
It is safe to say that Covid-19 left a long-lasting impact on women.
Despite the growth of the women’s participation, the labor in the last years and the separation of housekeeping, housework and childcare still seems females’ responsibilities. Where the male partner was the main breadwinner, women performed the largest share of housework, no matter how paid working hours changed during the first lockdown. Compositional differences between the housework and the childcare samples suggest that, following a reduction in fathers’ paid hours, couples with children adopted a slightly more gender-equal allocation of housework.
And what about Italy?
The data show that unfortunately we are still far from the dual-earner model.
In an article published on March 10, 2021, by Statista Research Department, “Family members responsible for household chores in Italy 2019, by gender”, the graphs show results of a survey about household chores split between men and women. According to data, 69 percent of women declared that they mostly did the laundry, making it the most common housekeeping work for women, together with ironing and daily cleaning (both 63 percent). By contrast, 67 percent of men stated that they took care of the maintenance of the car, which was the most popular domestic task for men. Likewise, 64 percent of male respondents affirmed to be the main person in the household doing small repairs.
The end of the story is that Italy– which has one of the lowest birth rates in the western world – has the biggest gender gap when it comes to carving up chores. Italian women clock up 21 hours more per week than men on housework.
We have had the opportunity to read several surveys and articles, about the situation in both United Kingdom and Italy, considering the period before and during Covid-19 pandemic, and at first, we had the feeling there is no way out from a situation which has been kept unaltered for centuries, but there is.
Education. It has been established that the growth of level of education is necessary to reduce gender differences in working time even if the couples who have overcome gender roles, and in which the woman performes more hours of paid work are still too few.
The man does more household work than the woman, only when she's a university graduate. And this happens everywhere: in Great Britain as in Italy.
Having a mother with a higher educational level also reduces the time spent by daughters in housework and increases the one spent by sons.
So, education seems to be the key to be more conscious about the women's position in our society
- Chores, a routine task, especially a household one
- Breadwinner, a person who earns money to support their family, typically the sole one.
Progetto Educazione Civica/Lingua Inglese, Classe IIA Cl.