Women's Journal

The Gender Disparity in Domestic Labor: A Comprehensive Analysis of UK Households

Image Commercially Licensed from: DepositPhotos
Image Commercially Licensed from: DepositPhotos

While the majority of the United Kingdom’s populace concurs that domestic responsibilities should be equitably divided between men and women, the reality presents a different picture. According to the latest British Social Attitudes Survey, women continue to shoulder a disproportionate share of household chores. This article delves into the nuances of this gender disparity, examining societal attitudes, actual practices, and the implications for gender equality.

Over the past few decades, the UK has witnessed a significant shift in attitudes towards gender roles. In the mid-1980s, nearly half of the population agreed with the traditional notion that men should be the breadwinners while women should manage the home. Fast forward to the present, and only 9% of respondents hold this view. This change indicates a progressive shift in societal norms, but the practical application of these attitudes lags behind.

The Reality Behind Closed Doors

When the survey focused on mixed-sex households to understand the actual distribution of domestic labor, the results were revealing. A staggering 63% of women reported doing more than their fair share of housework, compared to just 22% of men who claimed to bear most of the domestic responsibilities. About one-third of men even admitted to doing less than they should. This phenomenon, often referred to by social scientists as the “second shift,” describes how women, after a full day at their workplace, continue to take on the majority of domestic and childcare duties.

Some men, however, argue that the survey doesn’t accurately represent the division of labor in their homes. For instance, a man named Andy from Hampshire stated that he and his wife share cleaning tasks and that he is primarily responsible for cooking and taking out the trash. This suggests that there may be households where the division of labor is more balanced, but these seem to be exceptions rather than the rule.

The British Social Attitudes Survey also touched upon other social issues, revealing a “near-revolution” in viewpoints since the 1980s. For example, opposition to same-sex relationships has significantly decreased. However, support for transgender rights has seen a decline since 2019. The survey also highlighted that the perception of social mobility has become increasingly pessimistic, with a growing number of people finding it “very difficult” to change their social class.

The survey pointed out that female participation in the labor market has risen from 54% in 1983 to 72% in 2023. Despite this, the unequal division of domestic labor persists, influenced by workplace norms and public policies. The authors of the survey argue that the UK is far from achieving a complete revolution in household gender roles.

While the UK has made strides in shifting societal attitudes towards gender roles, the practical application of these progressive views is yet to catch up. The persistent gender disparity in domestic labor serves as a “final frontier” that the country needs to address to achieve true gender equality.